What an action-packed 10 days it's been for this years' Maidenhead's Big Read. Literary events, reading, illustrating and the simple joy of getting lost in a book have been enjoyed by all throughout the town.
Not only did we drop everything and read at 10am on World Book Day, children were also treated to a special visit on Saturday 7th March by Zog, one of Julia Donaldson's much-loved characters. He was a very friendly dragon giving out high-fives and hugs, and he even blended in well with the Big Read volunteers!
On Friday 6th guests enjoyed the an informative talk at the Maidenhead Heritage Centre by Martin Trepte, former Advertiser Editor and James Preston, current Advertiser Editor. The talk gave a glimpse into Maidenhead's past through the Advertiser's photographic archives as a celebration of its 150 years serving the local community. 200 pages of history, starting in the 1860's.
Saturday kicked off with Coral Rumble who gave a high-energy, interactive session, where everyone was encouraged to interact with poems and simple stories. In addition to some poems, Coral read extracts from her storybooks, 'The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat' and 'Mustafa's Jumper'.
At 11am we were treated to a musical interlude courtesy of New Maidenhead Choir, where passers by were offered sheets to encourage them to read and join in, or simply stop and enjoy the music!
Next up was Space Stories - the first child Astronaut with author Sue Palmer. Guests got to hear about Michael May who wanted to be the first child astronaut. They got to hear about his attempt to follow his dreams and learn about real life astronaut training and what's going on in space right now.
We closed Saturday with a unique and interesting talk from the past, entitled The Early Dark Ages - Where History Meets Legend with Tim Walker. He presented his award-winning historical book series, A Light in the Dark Ages, and described how he researched the post-Roman period and his efforts to find evidence of a real historical Arthur hidden behind the legend.
The last day of this years' Big Read kicked off with a very popular talk linked with climate changed entitled "Rubbish, Plastic and Waste: Global Environmental Issues" with Leysa Henderson. During her workshop Lysa touched on the global issues that inspired her to write her books, focusing on rainforests, endangered species and the global impact we as human beings are having on the planet.
We finished with a magical story telling session with Ruth Humphreys who shared her interactive magical tales and original stories all focusing on how to build self esteem, encourage cooperation and kindness.
We have had an amazing 10-days and cannot thank all the authors and presenters enough for giving up their time and sharing their passions with hundreds of people in the town, and to our Sponsors without whom we could not have held this festival. A massive thank you to everyone who came and took part, we hope we have enthused and inspired you to read more and share books with your children, family and friends.
Here's to next year...
This year's Maidenhead's Big Read started with a fascinating and amusing presentation by The Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP, who talked about the books she loved reading as a child and the ones that capture her imagination now.
It turns our our former Prime Minister is a bit of a fan of crime and thrillers... she loves trying to work out who the killer might be before she reaches the end of the book and firmly believes that "there is nothing like losing yourself in a good book".
Mrs May commented that books give tremendous joy and the ability to learn so much. You can learn all about history when reading Dickens for example; and we should all be proud of the rich literary history we have in our country from the classics such as Emma and Pride & Prejudice, all the way to modern literature from the likes of J.K. Rowling.
Throughout her life she has enjoyed reading the classics and shared with the audience that her most favourite book of all time is Pride & Prejudice. She loved how Jane Austin captured the time period but also the verbal interplay between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy. "Elizabeth is a feisty young woman able to match Mr Darcy linguistically and stand her own ground. It inspires me to consider my own use of our fantastic language", she commented.
As a child her most favourite book was The Wool-Pack, a historical novel written and illustrated by Cynthia Harnett. Set in the Cotswolds near Burford, Oxfordshire, The Wool-Pack begins in 1493 when Nicholas Fetterlock, the twelve-year-old son of a rich wool merchant, learns from his father that he is betrothed to Cecily Bradshaw, the daughter of a rich cloth merchant. Nicholas discovers villainy within the guild: swindlers who may ruin his father's business, at least. Nicholas, Cecily, and a friend determine to stop them.
Mrs May is currently reading Mill on the Floss and also takes time to enjoy books about cricket, recipe books and books that teach her new things on a range of topics; obviously interspersed with crime thrillers and the classics!
Mrs May ended by saying "I enjoy reading, it gives me great pleasure. I want to see more young people reading books, don't lose yourself on social media, lose yourself in a good book. Allow yourself to enter a different world that a great book can take you to. Get your imagination fired up, learn from it and be entertained".