Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Manchester Children's Book Festival: Gala Dinner

Carol Ann Duffy: rock and roll laureate
To Manchester, for a Gala Dinner (although the organisers confessed to not really knowing what a Gala Dinner was; I'm not really sure either - I thought it was something to do with swimming) in a swanky hotel, to celebrate and fundraise for the Manchester Children's Book Festival. The festival is run by the legendary James Draper and Kaye Tew, and does some brilliant work with children from deprived backgrounds.

I was on a table with poet and writer Adam O'Riordan; Carol Ann Duffy, the Poet Laureate, was at the table next to ours. I don't think I've ever seen a brace of poets dance quite so well as Carol Ann Duffy and Adam.  Is Duffy our first rock and roll laureate? Could Ted Hughes do the tango, and Andrew Motion the locomotion? Now that would be a sight.

Duffy gave away a bottle of Laureate's sherry - "from the Queen," said someone; "it's not from the Queen, it's from Spain," said Duffy.

She read out one of her poems, about Coronation Street; the speech was given by its creator, Tony Warren. It was written in big black felt tip and was like something out of a Ronald Firbank novel, all syncopation and sharpness. It contained some immortally brilliant lines: "She was a bishop's daughter, and she was very firm about it," being one of my particular favourites. He received a standing ovation.

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