Second to none – the 2016 Barnes Children’s Literature Festival

It’s almost three weeks since the second Barnes Children’s Literature Festival, after which I dashed off to Verona. Now that I’m back I wanted to share a few photos  (of the festival – not Verona!) and a weekend date for your next year’s diary – Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 May 2017 when the third festival will take place. Sign up here to be added to their mailing list (scroll down once you land on the page).

A children’s festival with big ambitions

On the evening that marked the end of last year’s inaugural one-day festival I marvelled at the energy of local mum, book publicist and festival organiser, Amanda Brettargh, as she enthused about making the following year’s event twice the size and spread over two days instead of one. Anyone else in her shoes at that time would have been sinking back in a chair with a well-deserved gin and tonic and worrying about next year another time…!

Amanda certainly doesn’t do things by halves and this year those ambitions were well and truly fulfilled. With over 50 author events held across nine venues over the two-day period, and over 5,000 tickets and £15,000 of children’s / YA books sold, the festival is now firmly on the literary map and not to be missed if you live within reach.

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Barnes Children’s Literature Festival website

Not only are you guaranteed a mix of bestselling authors across all age ranges (this year included Judith Kerr, Alex Scheffler, Michael Morpurgo, Lauren Child, Jacqueline Wilson, Philip Reeve, Cornelia Funke and Frances Hardinge – to name but a very few), but children can also enjoy free storytelling and other creative workshops around the pond throughout the weekend. What better excuse do you need to spend time with your children in one of the prettiest villages in southwest London?

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I couldn’t be everywhere by any means. Below I let I’ll let the pictures and captions tell the story that I saw…

Friday afternoon – on its way up –  the wonderful ‘Booktop Marquee’ which hosted Jacqueline Wilson, Philip Reeve, Morris Gleitzman, Cathy Cassidy, Frances Hardinge, Lauren Child and David Mackintosh over the two days. Just one of nine festival venues dotted around the village – but by far one of the most striking…
Saturday afternoon – a packed Booktop Marquee with Carnegie Medal Winner Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines) reading from his new book Rail Head – along with a great audio visual soundtrack 🙂
Around the pond – the bookshop tent with red flags in the foreground (also hosted free author readings on the hour). Behind it, the free arts & crafts wigwam and then the ‘Booktop’ Marquee  beyond… There was a fabulous all-day BBQ at the Old Sorting Office arts centre, seen at the end of the path where the white umbrella is visible. As the day went on, the whole green became a picnic area for children and families – some even set up a badminton game…
St Mary’s Church filling up to hear bestselling fantasy author Cornelia Funke. Of her schooldays she said “I wrote essays, but not what the teachers wanted!” Of her characters she says she feels they are always travelling with her. Funke Facts: The planning stage for her books can last years – she puts together extensive notebooks with pasted-in research images and her own illustrations and handwritten notes – they looked beautiful! These help the story grow. She has 14 notebooks for The Griffin’s Yarn… On writer’s block she said: “There’s no such thing – you just run into a hedge and wonder how your characters have tricked you and what will happen next…” Funke only started writing at age 27 – before that she was a social worker and then an illustrator for children’s books. It was when illustrating children’s books that she realised she could write better stories. It was 17 years before she came up with the sequel to Dragon Rider. Until then she couldn’t think how to make the follow-on story original…
The phone box outside Olympic Cinema was turned into a free Children’s Bookswap for the weekend 🙂
Little ones waiting for the start of Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep reading – part of the free author events programme on Sunday afternoon … Ferdinand Fox himself was a big hit. By this time he had been passed around by all the children and was losing his jacket 🙂
The bookshop tent buzzed all weekend long! Also the venue for free author readings…


In the space of an hour we had two sittings for the Ferdinand Fox reading on Sunday afternoon – this was the first. Top right you can see one of the 90 (yes, 90!) volunteers who came from Barnes local community organisations, local primary schools, friends and family and Roehampton University .


A signed copy of Rail Head from Philip Reeve – he can draw too 🙂  With thanks to my husband for the surprise present! I’m a big fan of the Mortal Engines books….


Along with the authors, Barnes’ resident swans with their new signets drew lots of attention…! A pity that the sun had briefly gone in for this shot…
Saturday morning calm before the storm 🙂 Bookseller extraordinaire, Isla Dawes (right), owner of The Barnes Bookshop, and a bookseller friend and volunteer Venetia Vyvyan (left) – little did they know that £15,000 of books would be sold over the weekend! (I love the aprons!)
The swans and signets now across the pond….they do get around… we even have a road sign in the village to stop the traffic when they cross 🙂



As part of my launch of Walter Brown and the Magican’s Hat at the festival I took along props for my reading and a young audience member enacted the scene where Walter opens the battered box and finds the hat left to him by his Great-grandpa. (Sadly I didn’t manage to get a photo of this!)

I also had a free prize draw that children entered over the weekend. Top left shows the top hat the moment before the draw on Sunday night. The lucky winner was nine-year-old Ben Nicholson from Putney whose mother kindly sent me the photo below!

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A moment of magic for Ben Nicholson 🙂


A few shots of Barnes village – not a bad place to spend the weekend!



Screen Your Story event – still to come

In July there will be a screening at the Barnes Olympic Cinema of the winner of the children’s Screen Your Story Competition Find out more about Screen Your Story here

Below is an earlier tweet showing the cinema. You can follow me @kareninglis btw

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A few great links

With Cornelia Funke after her talk at the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival – read my in-depth interview with her above

That’s it…

This is just my story – and doesn’t do justice to all the venues and many readings and talks that went on – nor to the wonderful atmosphere of the weekend. Still, I hope it has inspired you to make a note in your diaries to come along next year. Remember – you can sign up for news about next year’s Barnes Children’s Literature Festival here.

Wild flowers around Barnes Pond…

Oh, ok – since you insist, here’s one shot from Verona 🙂

View to Verona from the hill before lunch…that sunshine is a distant memory!

Hmm – I see below that my last blog post was a year ago! I really must find a bit more time to post in between my writing and school visits! However, remember you can also find me on twitter and facebook

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