Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Birmingham Book Festival 2012: Patrick Gale and Femi Oyebode

This year, I am volunteering at the Birmingham Book Festival, an annual event hosted by Writing West Midlands that takes place at various venues around the city. On Friday 5th October, after a crazy afternoon of teaching, I spent the evening volunteering at my first event: the author Patrick Gale and the poet and psychiatrist Femi Oyebode in conversation, taking about the Psychiatry of Character.

The event took place at the Ikon Gallery in Brindley Place (amidst superduper lockdown security for the Conservative Party conference next door at the ICC). I had never been in the Ikon Gallery before, but it's a pretty cool building, and in the gallery where the talk took place there was a exhibition of Tony Arefin's graphic designs - lots of fun bright stuff to look at!

As a volunteer, I had various jobs to do, but I did manage to see a good portion of the talk, and all of the audience Q&A session at the end. I've never read anything by either author, but they were both really interesting to listen to. Patrick talked about how he became an author after the death of one of his brothers, and how he constructs his books from the characters upwards - rather than focusing on plot, he creates the characters and allows the plot to develop from their interactions. He also talked about the process of writing a book, and how he thinks about a book for a long time before putting anything down on paper, so that the whole process takes around two years. There was some discussion about the growth of creative writing as a university degree programme, and Patrick argued that it's possible to teach writing techniques, but not to teach someone to be a writer - that writers have a skill that can be enhanced by learning different techniques, but a writer can't be created from scratch by teaching alone.

Femi talked about the extent to which his profession as a psychiatrist influences how he reads, and how he has little interest in diagnosing characters on the page. Questions from the audience brought up lots of different topics, including Quakerism, difficult mothers, characters with disabilities, morality and 'good' characters, and Patrick's desire to create well-rounded gay characters, rather than token stand-in figures.

Overall, it was a interesting and stimulating talk, and I'm looking forward to the other book festival events I get to be part of in the next week!

1 comment:

  1. Volunteering at a book fair sounds like a great to really experience it and to see so much of it!


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