29 March 2006

Oxford Literary Festival

The Oxford Literary Festival has been running for a few days no, finishing today. Writers in Oxford, a group of which I am a member, provides volunteers to mind the speakers, most of whom are of course authors. This year, with a few days of leave that had to be taken imminently, I volunteered.
On Monday I looked after a web site designer who was presenting what was termed a workshop at the Festival. In fact it was just a talk, though a pretty interesting one. He specialises in authors' web sites, having done one for an author he knew who introduced him to Jeanette Winterson. He's done nearly 40 more since including Philip Pullman's. We had a minor bit of excitement when it turned out there was no power in the room; I blamed the builders, they just didn't have a clue about electrics back in the middle ages. It was eventually turned on and he gave a interesting talk - but then in the Green Room afterwards we ended up talking about running - of course!
Yesterday I looked after a guy called Philip Marsden, a travel writer who has a book about Ethiopia out at present, Chains of Heaven (the title comes from the only way to get to a monastery he visited in Ethiopia, and he read the extract about it to the session). However, he was "in conversation with" a radio presenter who made me redundant, except that he magnanimously allowed me to announce where the fire exit was before the session began. Afterwards, Philip signed books in the festival bookshop, and was understandably delighted when the queue for his book was still substantial after the lady signing hers at the next table, Doris Lessing, had finished and gone for tea.

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