Thoughts from a Festival – ArchWay with Words 2015

North London treated me well last weekend; sunny weather, great food, good company and the annual ArchWay with Words festival! I missed it last time, so was delighted to see it make an appearance again for its third year. Started by local Stephanie Smith, who also set up the weekly Archway market, it’s a wonderful celebration of creative talent with a cracking line-up.

Here are the two events that I couldn’t choose between, and so booked both. Well, at only £5 per ticket, why not?

ArchWay With Words

Esther Freud

When I read Hideous Kinky a couple of months ago, I had one of those incredible “where has this book been all my life?!” moments, and so was feeling ultra excited about seeing her talk on Saturday. She arrived promptly with local novelist Joanna Briscoe at the intimate setting of the Archway Methodist Church.

Each author read from their most recent novels and then had an informal chat followed by a short question and answer session covering everything from ghosts, to writing habits and influences. Here are a few things I found particularity interesting…

Esther Freud – Taken from the ArchWay with Words website

  • Freud has a short ‘warm up’ on  her computer to get her fingers and mind in the mood for writing. (Does browsing Facebook and Twitter count? If so, I also like to ‘warm up’).
  • Reading is one of Freud’s favourite things (obviously!), and rather than avoiding other books, she often finds that they give her inspiration when she is writing.
  • Freud becomes an expert on whatever subject matter she is writing about. Because of her research for Mr Mac and Me, she says architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh could be her Mastermind specialist subject.
  • A lot of Freud’s novels are from the perspective of children. As I found with both The Wild and Hideous Kinky, she can really get inside the child’s head. Although she has three children, she draws from her own childhood memories and experiences, rather than theirs.
  • On writing routines: Freud works from 10am – 2pm, finding four hour windows much more productive than having the whole day free for writing. Joanna Briscoe does a lot of her writing at the British Library, away from the distractions of the Internet!

Signed Mr Mac

I’m not usually phased by the idea of famous people, but when faced with the poise of Esther Freud, I could only manage a high pitched squeak of “that was great!”. But I was very happy to have my newly acquired copy of Mr Mac and Me signed.

Polly Vernon

Journalist Polly Vernon wasn’t really on my radar until the publication of Hot Feminist, and even then I hadn’t realised there was such controversy surrounding the book. I was intrigued by the title (as I’m sure was the intention) and have been considering buying it, just to see what Vernon has to say.

Like the previous talk, this was informal and intimate, with audience interaction. Polly Vernon started by introducing her book and then talking about feminism in general.

From her conversation, I found Vernon to be genuine, natural and good-humoured. She had obviously suffered from the negative reviews received from major newspapers, including ex-colleagues at the Guardian. When asked what she had expected, she admitted that she may have been naive, but certainly hadn’t anticipated the barrage of abuse on the Internet from people who hadn’t even read the book.

Vernon set out to write her book because she was sick of being judged by other feminists. She likes to look sexy and doesn’t always mind being wolf-whistled at, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t a feminist. She pointed out the full title of the book; ‘Hot Feminist: Modern Feminism, With Style, Without Judgement‘. The ‘without judgement’ part is what appeals to me and I look forward to reading the book to see if the Polly Vernon I listened to the other day shines through the pages of this bold, hot pink book.

PV Signed

Two new signed books in one weekend – that’s not too bad! Thanks a lot to ArchWay with Words. I’ll be looking forward to seeing what treats you organise for next year!

For those in the North London area, the festival is on until Sunday 18th October, so check out the website to see what’s on!

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