9.00 a.m. First is the physical preparation.
Clapham Writers and volunteers, all sporting their Common Reading T-shirts, are at Omnibus at nine in the morning to organise the furniture in the Lounge/Bar area. We plan to have a very long table covered fully with the books of Festival authors, as well as a side table of books by Clapham Writers Circle. Plus smaller tables with chairs, where authors could sit and sign their books. Our six foot high banner declaring ‘Celebrate the Common Reader‘ is set up in the foyer.
We must vacate the premises by ten thirty, to allow space for the parents of those children attending Dough! a theatre session (with bread-making). I head off to Clapham Library to photocopy hundreds of evaluation feedback sheets and buy bits and pieces which we found we didn’t have, but needed. Then to spend an hour leafleting at Venn Street Market with Penelope, my colleague, to persuade any last-minute, spontaneous Festival goers.
12.30 p.m. On returning to Omnibus it is all systems go to remove superfluous furniture and help the Omnibus staff clean up (after Dough!). David Armstrong sets out the books.
John Taylor is our Technical Director for the Festival (complete with name badge to prove it!). He ensures that the backdrop slide shows are loaded, chairs, tables and mics set up in the theatre and the flower arrangement placed on its plinth. Sound and lights are tested – though by this time, on a sunny Saturday, we’re all opening any available windows and setting up fans to keep the theatre as cool as was possible.
Evaluation sheets are placed on theatre seats, pens are placed on signing tables and the boxes of chocolates, small thank you gifts for the Festival participants, are retrieved from the place where they had been hidden (away from small hands and doughy fingers) and stacked ready. Omnibus people staff the coffee bar/bar and someone sits on the front desk to hand out tickets to those who had bought on-line.
Then the people start arriving. First the family members and friends who are coming for the whole day and want to be there early so as to wish us all well (one of the un-looked-for benefits of doing this sort of thing is meeting new people and making new friends). The bar is doing a growing trade selling teas and coffees.
Claphamite Natasha Cooper arrives, the Chair of Death in the Afternoon. I am introduced to JP Delaney, a charming man who is happy to discuss his remarkable good fortune in having his new book optioned for a Hollywood film (dir. Ron Howard). Sabine Durrant arrives, living proof that once you’ve participated in Clapham Book Festival you never escape (she was at the 2016 edition). Annemarie Neary, fellow Clapham resident, is there, perplexed that JP could write his book and yet not be a lawyer, so well executed are the legal elements (she had used to be a lawyer before turning to writing).
The Festival-going public appear. They browse the book table and chat. The theatre manager rings the bell and, suddenly, it is almost time. The room empties as folk go into the theatre. Natasha and her panel wait then follow Elizabeth Buchan in, ( Elizabeth is going to give the opening speech of welcome ). The door closes behind them.
2.00p.m. Clapham Book Festival 2017 is off and running!