Last week I had the pleasure of attending the local annual Lowdham Book Festival for a Saturday of literary pursuit. Lowdham is a village just a few short miles from my home and has a special significance for this blog site. It was just a year ago that I attended a lecture given by Mike Atkinson, a free-lance writer and author of the excellent troubled diva blog site. That talk gave me the notion to set this site up after formerly experimenting with a homepage for some time.
The final Saturday at Lowdham is always the most popular and usually packed with events enough to interest anyone held in the several different small venues around the village from a marquee, through a Women’s Institute Hall to an old Methodist Chapel. The day also features a book fair full of bargain reads and is now widening into literary craft displays such as bookbinding.
With so many events overlapping and running simultaneously I tend to choose a few before the day and head for those. On this day my first choice talk Victorian Nottingham was to begin at 10.15am and being a little Saturday morning-tardy I decided not to rush breakfast and took a leisurely drive through the attractive village of Woodborough and over to Lowdham instead.
A little too leisurely perhaps as on reaching the WI Hall a few minutes prior, I was the very last person allowed through the door to greet standing room only. The talk, Murder and Crime in Nottingham with author Adam Nightingale was about to begin early and proved to be an entertaining and informative forty-five minutes. I was perched precariously near an open doorway to a kitchen and this did not seem to one of the WI ladies satisfaction as she instructed that she would be closing the door as it was a ‘staff only’ area!
Adam Nightingale explained that his day job was as an actor at Nottingham’s Galleries of Justice attraction and that this was an ideal environment for his research for the book. Adam took an uncommon pleasure in some of the grizzly stories he related for which he offered no excuse! The book looked a good read and the talk showcased his great knowledge of the subject and a nice line in mischievous humour. As we were regaled with tales of highwayman’s shootouts, cannibalism and the infamous and incredible life of arch-crook Charlie Peace, the summer sounds of the village cricket team drifted through the small hall’s windows. It was interesting to note that the composition of the audience tended to be a quite mature one. Unfortunately two ladies of an older generation displayed amply that rudeness is not confined to the young as some would believe, by chattering incessantly during the talk inviting some annoyance from others in the audience.
There was just time to pick up a couple of bargains from the book fair at the village hall down the road before rushing back to the WI Hall for another lecture. Amply showing Lowdham’s growing popularity there was yet again standing room only, Unfortunately the scheduled talk, The Lost Castles of Nottingham was replaced by a substitute talker due to illness. Nevertheless the excellent stand-in took the audience on a whistle-stop and very informative tour around the county. The content took the audience back to Norman times, through Nottinghamshire architecture and local industry such as coal mining. In what could have been a fairly dry subject, the accomplished speaker offered a light-hearted look at history and was well-received with a good response. Midway through this slot some strange noises emanated from near the back of the audience where a reasonably large gentleman slept as peacefully as a new-born baby to the great amusement of those surrounding him. He awoke with one of those starts and grunts that one performs after dropping off in front of a late night movie on TV, safely unaware of the lecture’s content.
A late lunch approached and I pondered the local Co-op store for a little sustainance. I decided on some Co-Op food instead. Is this only country in the world that would have a large festival in a relatively small village with lots of visitors yet only still produce one very slow and methodical checkout person? I left the store noticing that I had grown a full beard and mustache by this time but no matter, and headed to the local park to sit and eat in pleasant, green surroundings. It seemed like an alfresco party had been held on the bench there that previous night as several unopened cans of cheap lager had been left there on the grass.
Back inside the marquee, the book fair jostled along – quite literally. I hadn’t realised that buying books was a contact sport and took a severe elbowing or three whilst tucking into a little Oscar Wilde and Bill Bryson with a view to buy. I’ll bring hockey pads next time. At one point a tiny head poked out from under a covered trestle table laden with books – an amazing feat of septuagenarian agility as the bookseller sprang to his full height with an armful of books for his potential customers. I moved on, past a man in a bear outfit (??) and headed over the road to The Ship Inn to calm myself.
The Ship Inn
Can you spot a writer? I can. I was obviously sitting next to two of them whilst I spilled a pint of cider down me in the old pub. There is a kind of ‘uniform’ that writers often wear – at least those of a certain age. De rigueur are heavy tweed jackets (at any time of year) light tan shoes, linen suits and the odd panama hat worn at a rakish angle. I’ve decided that such garments are obviously helpful to the creative process. Such events are so wonderful for one of my favourite pastimes of people watching. I had a minor gripe actually. Without by any means tarring a group of people with the same brush why is it that a reasonable section of people at the likes of the Lowdham Book Festival appear to walk around with an annoying smell underneath their noses? In my view there is a fair amount of snobbery at play in such individuals who somehow feel slightly superior and exclusive because of their interest in literature. I regret this attitude as I very much believe in literature for all.