Guernsey Literary Festival

The first Guernsey Literary Festival seemed to me to be a success. I think the benefits of this festival will be immense in the long term. If Guernsey is an island that, with its many other blessings, is seen as a place where writing and culture happen, this can only enrich the lives of its people and greatly encourage a new generation of visitors.

For my part seeing the faces of the children from Vauvert and Le Murier schools light up with delight when I began telling them an adventure set where they live, made the whole trip worthwhile. I donated books to these schools and to St Martin’s primary too.

It was excellent to secure the backing of Barclays Wealth. It was a win-win too. Good for the sponsors because from a PR perspective, they have an image problem they need to fix. Projects of this sort that reach benignly into the island should be exactly what they should be looking for.

For my own part any time when Richard and I manage a BBC radio appearance and three poetry readings to promote the A Guernsey Double is a success in itself. I was also able to launch Defenders of Guernsey in two sessions with schoolchildren, attend a poetry cafe reading with some fine poets, and meet people like Annie Barrows, Edward Chaney, Sebastian Peake, Caroline Carver and Tim Binding, do some protracted networking on the island, and know that the best part of 160 Skelton Yawngrave stories are now in the island’s schools.

Thanks to the Guernsey Literary Festival I returned home full of a revived interest in writing and performing, in Mervyn Peake, in the poetry of Caroline Carver, the singing of Olivia Chaney and with new friends made and old friendships strengthened.

Well done Guernsey. And well done folks like Catriona Stares, Richard Fleming, Jane Mosse and the many others who dedicated enormous time and effort to the whole thing.

More glimpses of Mervyn Peake

I have been reading more of Mervyn Peake, particularly Boy in Darkness and other stories which was edited by Sebastian Peake. All the stories were new to me, and it is beautifully produced with more than 40 illustrations by Peak too.

There is one story in it called I Bought a Palm Tree, about a man called John who lives on Sark sending to Guernsey for a palm tree for his garden. Almost nothing happens in the story, though it is told in an amusing way. There is a charm about it however, which is entirely Peake.

“It all started one morning on the island of Sark. There was something in the air that day, a spicy, balmy something, almost tropical in itself though heaven knows I was thousands of miles away from the isles of the spices, humming-birds and turtles. But I breathed deeply and I longed. I longed. What for? I didn’t know at first, but I knew it must be for something that was a part of my childhood. A symbol I suppose.”

Also been looking at Peake’s poetry, and skimming over it for material which is explicitly about Sark. I will add Snow in Sark to the Anthology site. But this little poem also caught my attention.

Sark; Evening

1
From the sunset I turn away
To the sweep of a steel bay.

2
The lonely waters are grander far
That the red and the gold are.

Mervyn Peake in Sark

I have been looking at some of Mervyn Peake’s work, and there is a great site here, run by his son Sebastian Peake. I emailed Sebastian to ask for permission to use one of the photos on The Anthology of Guernsey site. Sebastian says this picture is of his father “at work writing Gormenghast in the conservatory of our house on Sark, Le Chalet, in the late 1940s”.

I was also interested to learn that Peake had lived near Warningcamp near Arundel. I have walked around the country round there several times, and looking over the river Arun towards the castle is a view which must have informed the creation of Gormenghast.

Image of Mervyn Peake in Sark by kind permission of the Mervyn Peake Estate. The other image is one I took a while ago inside Arundel Castle.