My line-up in the dovegreyreader tent for Port Eliot Festival 2014 is confirmed, and though the running order may still need some last minute tweaking I think we are there with the final guest list of nine. Everyone who was approached gamely accepted the invitation to come and converse among the sofas, and the knitting, and the pots of tea over the weekend of July 25th/26th/27th and the more I delve into the books the more excited I am about sitting and talking with every one of them. As the guests are revealed through this week I will be adding their books to my Port Eliot Reading List in the sidebar >>>>> over here >>>
For those who may not have experienced this before you can check out more information about Port Eliot here, and the Festival here. For one glorious weekend and by kind invitation, we bring dovegreyreader scribbles to life and Team dovegreyreader (you will be meeting them soon) report back on here covering as much of the festival as they can (see 2009, 2010, when I went along on my own and blogged live, and 2011, 2012 when, like this year I had a tent of my own and a team, there was no festival last year...everyone had a break and the grass has recovered beautifully) This all means that if you can't be there you won't be left out.
So please meet my first three guests...
Not wishing to cause a rift of envy in the Parr household, and having invited Susie Parr, wild swimmer and author of The History of Swimming to the tent at the last festival, we thought it would be nice to invite her husband, photographer Martin Parr, this year.
Seriously, I knew almost nothing about his work, but the joy of this festival is to be bowled a ball that I have to jump about a bit to catch and for which I have to knuckle down and do some homework.
First port of call the libraries, and my thanks to Cornwall who shipped up five enormously heavy books from the St Ives Art Collection free of charge to my nearest branch...and we took a lorry over to collect them.
Now, just two weeks on, there is no circulation getting past my knees but I think I probably know what colour socks he wears...
...well maybe not, but I am completely engrossed in all things Martin Parr and nor did I realise that he was the instigator of the Boring Postcards books.
How many times have I picked those up in a bookshop and wonder what the point was. Well now I am beginning to understand.
Internationally acclaimed as one of our great social observers, with an eye and a lens that seek out the realities of English life in particular, but also taking that eye around the world and having a good look everywhere else too, Martin Parr sees it and tells it in a most unique and compelling way.
That little book (pictured above) Martin Parr, published by Phaidon is, in contrast to the mighty tomes, a pocket-sized retrospective of his work, and if you are the least bit interested it is an affordable must-have introduction to his photography. If you are English, maybe of a certain age, or know enough about us, you may feel as if you know the people and recognise the situations on every single page... and if you aren't and you don't, then many apologies but you might by the end of all this, because expect lots more about Martin Parr over the next few weeks. His pictures inspire and inform in equal measure, and often in very unexpected ways and we are loving them.
If you live near Bradford then lucky lucky you but you will have to be quick. Until June 29th there is an exhibition of Martin Parr's work at the National Media Museum along with that of the man he credits as an inspiration, Tony Ray-Jones.
Richard Benson's first book The Farm was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award in 2005 and tells the story of his family's struggle when it became clear that they would lose their farm. When his parents are forced to sell up, Richard, a journalist in London, returns home to Yorkshire to help his family make the transition from their birthright and a life on the land to something very different.
Richard's latest book The Valley A Hundred Years in the Life of a Family currently has me in its clutches, it is beautifully written, flows like a river and I am deeply engrossed. The sort of book I love to read and I love to write about here; social history mediated through the lives of real people and all woven in with the impact of historical events along the way...
"The close-knit villages of the Dearne Valley were home to four generations of the Hollingworth family. Spanning Richard Benson’s great-grandmother Winnie’s ninety-two years in the valley, and drawing on years of historical research, interviews and anecdotes, The Valley lets us into generations of carousing and banter as the family’s attempts to build a better and fairer world for themselves meet sometimes with triumph, sometimes with bitter defeat. Against a backdrop of underground explosions, strikes and pit closures, these are unflinching, deeply personal stories of battles between the sexes in a man’s world sustained by strong women; of growing up, and the power of love and imagination to transform lives."
And starting to do my homework (it is like swotting for an exam) I discover this is not the Richard Benson who has written umpteen books on school howlers and How to Pass an Exam. Imagine that...
'So tell me Richard, Blackboard Slips and Homework Blunders...nice title...where did your inspiration come for this book...'
Mr Higgledy Gardens himself...yes the real thing, not a pretend one, not a cardboard cut-out...no I am to meet the real Mr Higgledy.
Cornwall's very own cut flower genius and purveyor of seeds for so many of the lovely plants that are growing in our garden...
Ben has planted up a cut flower border in the walled garden at Port Eliot in readiness for the festival and will be doing talks there too, so there will be hordes of people crowding round to look at his mammoth zinnias and his cobaea scandens I am sure.
To be honest I'll be fine if no one else pitches up at the tent for my event because this means I can just sit Mr Higgledy on the sofa and get some advice about my ongoing nicotiana crowd crisis...
I am going to be in such trouble with Ben about these... but I have a feeling that likewise we will be packed out and also in need of thinning wherever Mr Higgledy goes.
I am hoping to redeem myself though, and that at least 'Something' Higgledy will be in flower and transportable to adorn the tent for the duration of the festival.