Young Readers Festival Recap

by Madeleine Saaf and Charlotte Rayment

The four day long North Cornwall Book Festival got off to a fantastic start this week with two days of workshops for children in the scenic setting of St. Endellion. 

The Young Readers Festival began on Thursday for the ‘Book Surfers,’ students aged twelve to fifteen years old. The young readers and writers rotated between workshops, picking up useful tips along the way. In novelist Emily Barr’s session, students tried their hands at writing anti-hero characters. Poet-boxer Matt Windle had the children rhyming while writing poems of their own. Collaborative writing was underway in the main marquee with author Eleanor Updale and her ‘boring bag’ of objects. Students left with minds full of words and a few signed books by the visiting writers after an entertaining day on the festival grounds. 

The excitement continued on Friday with brilliant workshops and talks for groups of children from local primary schools. Christopher William Hill and Sally Crabtree started the day with a hilarious interactive talk which had the children roaring with laughter. Chrissie Gittins then read some excerpts from her latest books and worked with the children to create some poems, while Matt Haig talked about Christmas and encouraged the children to create their own fictional creatures. 

We spoke to some of the children from Boscastle Community Primary School about what they thought of the day. One of the favourite moments seemed to be when a bee got into the main marquee during Christopher William Hill’s talk, where he also handed out pegs from a bag. As he explained to the children; this is what people did for fun before the days of the internet. 

 ‘I really liked Chris,’ said Logan, 10. ‘Especially the PEGS and the bee. It was really funny. I’m looking forward to meeting the authors – last year I got my Horrid Henry signed.’ 

Sorcha, 9, said that her favourite bit was ‘being able to learn about how to write a story.’ When asked whether she herself would like to be a writer one day, Sorcha said, ‘Yes! I like writing about adventures.’ 

 Their teacher, Mrs Hoden, talked about why they chose to come along this year. 

 ‘The school came last year,’ she said. ‘The children really enjoyed it. They like meeting the authors and taking part in the workshops. It kickstarts ideas for their own story writing. They’ve loved it. The kids have been saying, “Please can we do stories next week” and we’ve been talking about creatures, so I think I’m going to change my plan so they can write stories about creatures.’ 

At the end of the day, the children enjoyed meeting their favourite authors at a book signing, which was followed by a Prize Competition where The Charles Causley Young People’s and Children’s poetry prizes were presented by poet Alyson Hallett. Poet Chrissie Gittins also awarded prizes to the winners of the Sense of Place local primary schools’ poetry competition. 

 There were some truly beautiful pieces and a wonderful end to an inspiring two days.