Tuesday 23 February 2010

Alan Gibbons at Salford University - Vital Signs

It was such good fun having Alan with us at the University of Salford yesterday. It all started well with me meeting him at the Salford Museum, and Art Gallery. I’d been a little worried, so I’d looked out for him trying to park. I know a trick or two …. And I’d been prepared to show him the way. However, there was no sign of him in the queue for the car park so I made my way over to the museum. He was there already. Had been for all of two minutes. And I needn’t have worried about the car park. He’d sweet-talked one of our security guards and parked on the inner-campus. Would you believe it?
Alan knows Salford – he lived there for a while. He also knows white working class so he’s really at home here. He’s quite local, having been born in Warrington, brought up in Crewe and now living in Liverpool. Naturally, we had the hotpot for lunch – with the red cabbage of course.
He’s an experienced speaker, but nevertheless seemed anxious to get to the venue early so we set off for our Chapman Gallery. My turn to be nervous now. Would there be a respectable audience? I’d invited everybody I could think of. At a similar reading last week we ran out of chairs. The gallery really is a gallery and for both talks we were surrounded by these intriguing if rather macabre puppets, part of the current exhibition. They did add to the atmosphere, somehow.
Time to start – there were just twelve there – but a respectable audience nevertheless.
Alan talked for about twenty-five minutes and read a couple of passages from two of his books. He told us all about getting the Blue Peter Award for Shadow of the Mintaur. He also told us how he came to write. Another teacher making up stories for his class. A really interesting talk.
Then it was question time. I had some questions prepared but didn’t need them. The students asked enough.
All of them trooped over to our other campus and were joined by half a dozen more. They were in our rather smart Mary Seacole building. It always seems miles away because you have to actually cross the railway tracks but it really only takes a few minutes to walk between the two. I had to go off in another direction and deliver a lecture but I did rejoin them for the end of the workshop. The discussion was still lively and the students had pages of notes in front of them.
After another half hour or so we were trooping back across the railway line – and still talking about stories and writing for children and young adults.
A successful visit, I think.

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