Friday, 29 June 2012

Roll up! Roll up! Come and be entertained at Port Eliot!

If you've never heard of the Port Eliot festival, it's a bohemian free-for-all that Jarvis Cocker calls "a festival of ideas" and Hanif Kureishi says is "a sort of upmarket pop festival". It combines film and literary talks, music gigs, wild swimming, flower shows, comedy, fashion and best of all for our family, magical stuff for children ("Imagine a place where you can dance with trolls, take tea with a giant, make mischief with the pixies and knit dreams with a faerie." Note the use of the word faeries: no ordinary fairies here!) Port Eliot brings you together with such people as Rosie Boycott, Stephen Frears, Kate Summerscale and Suggs in one giant, weekend-long party. I love it. This year, it takes place in the grounds of the Port Eliot estate in Cornwall from July 19-22.
Yesterday I received some information about a brief reading stint I'm doing at the festival with fellow alumni and writing students from Falmouth's Profwriting MA. Usually, the profwriting tent is awkwardly placed on a muddy hill, but it appears we have been upgraded. Profwriting has a couple of one-hour slots in the Round Room in the house. No humble corner for us this year. The glittering room was designed by Sir John Soane and features a priceless mural painted by Robert Lenckiewicz. Woah!
The profwriting peeps are planning to present a variety of work, giving all the readers a five to ten minute slot each. They have picked a tongue-in-cheek circus theme, billing our show as the top attraction. I was asked if I could think of a few lighthearted and funny taglines about my piece to add to the poster. I'll be reading alongside The Man Who Hates Google and The UK's Worst Stand Up. It's always a nervewracking experience, reading (this is me doing it last year, fingering my wellies for comfort). But, well, my book is about breast cancer surgery, and to think of something lighthearted or funny and circusy to sell my work was at first blush a bit of a challenge.
It's not that there is nothing lighthearted in my book; there is a lot of humour because, let's face it, no-one wants to get depressed for the fun of it. I just wasn't sure how to present my work in a circus context. But the book is about Mermaids and Monsters after all, and when my sister said "hey, what about being the freak show?" that was it. An idea popped into my head. So, festival lovers, Roll up! Roll up! Come one! Come all! Visit Port Eliot and prepare to be amazed. Come and meet a Real Live Mermaid! She Speaks! She Laughs! Yes, you heard it here first, folks! The profwriting show is going to be the greatest show on earth!

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