Last year I was driving through my local town, Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire, and I spotted two banners hanging on the town bridge. One was advertising a music festival and one a festival for the arts. It got me thinking: why don’t we have a book festival for kids too? It was a fleeting idea, but it soon grew into a Very Big Real Thing. I just wasn’t sure, initially, if it was something I could pull off . . .

I mentioned this to a couple of children’s authors I know who live in or near Bradford-on-Avon, and they agreed we should start our own festival. We had a meeting in a cafe (always the best place to have meetings, I have found) and began firing questions into the air and scribbling in our notepads. The most important question was:

“Where should we hold the festival?”

It was when my friend and fellow author, Fleur Hitchcock, came up with the idea of involving our local library, that everything came together. Bradford-on-Avon library is a hive of activity. It is slap bang in the middle of the town and hosts a cornucopia of activities and events year-round.

And once a year the library runs the Summer Reading Challenge for children. Librarians go into schools and give assemblies to explain what the Challenge is all about. Then children come in with their parents or guardians to sign up and pledge to read six books over the holidays. They come in and out of the library throughout the summer to tell the librarians and volunteers about the stories they have read. It’s a great way to foster a love of reading and to use the library as a hub for the community.

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So once we knew we wanted our festival to be in the library, everything else fell into place. We called ourselves The Bradford-on-Avon Mini Book Festival (or BOAMBF for short). We had activities on the go while children came in to sign up for the Summer Reading Challenge on Friday 10th and Saturday 11th July. This meant we had a captive audience and it also meant we could inspire the children to write their own stories over the summer period as well as read other people’s.IMG_1452

Maudie Smith took a group of children to the seaside and told them the story of Millie and the Mermaids

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Cate Shearwater led a bunch of gymnasts through a fantastic gymnastic routine and read to them from her Somersaults and Dreams series.

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Angie Morgan showed children how to make ENORmouses (or is that enormice?) and read to them from her ENORMouse book and her Shouty Arthur series.

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Jeremy Strong had a packed room full of children hanging on his every word as he told them of his long career in children’s books (he has written over ONE HUNDRED books for kids!)

Alex Campbell held a “writing surgery” for teens and young adults who are keen writers and wanted tips on how to improve their work.

Fleur Hitchcock and Ian McKay showed us all how to make a model village from cardboard boxes and scraps of paper and material.

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Gary Parker, creator of top series “Millie in Between” on CBBC, talked to us about his experiences writing children’s drama series for the BBC.

And I ran a workshop on writing stories about “Animals in Funny Places” and also one on “How to Build a Story” with Fleur.

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It was an action-packed, glitter-filled, noisy, happy day. And the best thing about it was the stories that came from the kids themselves. Running the workshops was a little like putting on the festival itself: each workshop started with a small idea, but by the end we all had some cartoons, pictures, stories or pieces of artwork that were Very Big Real Things in their own right.

So if you have a tiny idea and you’re not sure if you can make it work, give it a go! You just never know what might happen . . .

To find out more about BOAMBF go to https://boambf.wordpress.com/about/

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