Bookie Buccaneer

Coverage of my experience as a first-time volunteer at the Margate Bookie Festival, September 2018.

Wednesday 3rd October 2018

The Margate Bookie, famously dubbed "the friendly lit fest by the sea," returned this autumn, and I was fortunate enough to be invited to be a volunteer for the weekend.

To my self-admitted shame (and personal annoyance) I had never heard of the festival before and was thrilled to meet a group of enthusiastic, supportive, and, yes, super friendly people who shared my interests. What follows is coverage of my two days as a bright-eyed Bookie Buccaneer ...

Day 1 - Friday 28th September 2018

Friday evening began in the Lifeboat pub, where crew and volunteers had a preliminary get together before kick-off. As conversation got going, it was refreshing to hear stories of similar endeavours of those with the same passions as myself. Listening to those a little further along the same journey, I quickly (and happily) realised that, while the sphere of writing/editing often feels a solitary one, finding a network of "your people" is so important, not only for expertise and fellowship, but also for keeping that flame of motivation alight.

Fed and watered, we all meandered over to the inaugural event—a creative writing world building workshop led by CCCU's

Creative Writing Society. We were invited to examine a table upon which sat a line of spherical objects (marbles, stones, etc), representing planets and moons. We then had to create our own worlds from scratch and think about everything from its name to its climate. I confess, I may have let the creative juices out all in one go. While most people shared their worlds' eco-systems and life forms, the sci-fi part of my brain decided mine was a barren moon to which a corrupt neighbouring planet sent its convicts. I blame my Dad. Nonetheless, it was interesting to have a new perspective on outside-in world building.


 Photo © Ben Bowles / Benjamin Film Photography

Playing God requires immense concentration (me front 2nd left)

At last it was time for the much-anticipated "Bookie Slam" at the Quarterdeck. Having never experienced poetry being performed live to an audience, the atmosphere was quite something! Guest performer Dean Atta gave us a selection of his powerful work (one of which might have got the waterworks going *sniff*). Then the floor was opened to a dozen other poets. The audience reacted on cue, from collective cringes of nausea at the images provoked by "A Love Letter to Theresa May," to enraptured silence followed by generous applause at Sadie Davidson's poem about overcoming challenges in her past—a deserving winner!

Day 2 - Saturday 29th September 2018

The brilliant sunshine made me forget autumn had already wormed its way into September as I walked the circumference of the bay and over to the Turner Contemporary. Here I spent the first part of my day, curious to explore the gallery for the first time.


 Photo © E L Sheppard


 Photo © E L Sheppard


 Photo © E L Sheppard

(left to right) Cornelia Parker's indoor instillation art "Perpetual Canon" and Jyll Bradley's "Dutch / Light" viewed from inside the gallery

Now, those of you who have read my previous blog post "Key Culprits" know what my feelings are surrounding the destruction of musical instruments for entertainment purposes. Whilst admittedly impressive and eye-catching in the light, the flattened and battered circle of brass instruments in Camelia Parker's instillation made my heart sink a little. I could not find much meaning in it other than the only thing perpetual about it was that the poor things could never make music again (instruments are so expensive!). The vivid colours of Jyll Bradley's piece also caught my eye, as I made my way to the back of the gallery.


There, hidden away, could be found the pop-up Margate Bookshop, run by Francesca Wilkins. I spent a generous amount of time browsing the books there, all hand-picked by the owner, a hoard which we all agreed was a wonderful selection. It was great to be able to also chat to my fellow volunteers about our past reads and never-ending "to-read" lists.


I myself was drawn to Alison Weir's Queens of the Conquest, which gives a history of the influential queens around the time of William the Conqueror. The medievalist in me is looking forward to delving into this new purchase very soon!

© Protected

 Photo © E L Sheppard


 Photo © E L Sheppard

Shots of the Margate Bookshop at the Turner, including Sathnam Sanghera, author of The Boy with the Topknot signing his book after speaking

The final event of my Bookie experience was held at the Beet Bar, a cosy, hipster-vibed, vegan-friendly oasis hidden down a side street. This was the venue for author Vicky Newham's creative writing workshop. It prompted us to consider what makes a fully rounded character and the importance of balancing universal and unique traits. We also thought about how to link our characters to plot, and the flaws and barriers which drive a protagonist to the climax of a story. All in all very useful and fun.


 Photo © E L Sheppard


 Photo © E L Sheppard

 (left to right) Beet Bar and a snap of my own design printed into leaflets!

Sadly my time at the Margate Bookie was over before it had begun. I had such a great time, both as a volunteer and as a participant. The events were fantastic but what made it was the people!


Not only was the festival a great experience in its own right, I was given the chance to put my editing and graphics skills to the test and produce a leaflet for distribution. It was very

surreal to see something that I had designed out in the real world!

A huge thank you to Andreas, Jess, Gemma and the rest of the crew for including me this time around and making it a fun couple of days. All that can be said now is that I'm very much looking forward to the next one!


 Photo © E L Sheppard