May the 12th saw the return of the usually annual Enid Blyton Day run by The Enid Blyton Society at the Loddon Hall in Twyford near Reading, a day that was sorely missed by the members last year.
As usual the day was well attended, with a room full of members present to peruse the the numerous book stands, which included ourselves, with lots of Enid Blyton goodies to sell, and to listen to the various speakers who were there to deliver interesting talks. There was also the usual scrumptious snacks on offer to tempt the appetite - including 'Anne's' cherry buns and 'Famous Five Clotted Cream Teas'.
The first speaker was Sarah Lawrence. Sarah is the Collection Director at Seven Stories in Newcastle. I am ashamed to say I didn't even know of Seven Stories existence, although how I had missed out on it I have no idea, but for those like me who didn't know, Seven Stories is the national home of children's books in Britain. See http://www.sevenstories.org.uk
Seven Stories is a registered charity that celebrates the art of children's books, their place in our childhood and in our culture. Sarah is largely involved in assembling original manuscripts and artwork from 'modern' British children's authors and illustrators, to keep a record of how children's books have evolved. From this exhibitions, events and learning programmes are made, and the exhibitions are both at Newcastle, and some now go on tour around Britain. Exhibitions currently on show are 'A squash and a Squeeze' sharing stories with Julia Donaldson' and 'Daydreams and Diaries : the stories of Jacqueline Wilson'. After telling us about the nail biting auction where they managed to acquire some important parts of the Enid Blyton archive, Sarah told us that Seven Stories are planning a major Blyton exhibition for next year. I hope to visit Seven Stories in the not too distant future.
Following this talk, Jon Appleton, the editorial director (fiction) at Hodder Children's Books, gave us a short update on the Blyton publishing situation. Hachette Children's Book, Hodder's parent company have recently bought the Enid Blyton Estate (apart from Noddy) from Chorion. There seemed to be general nods of approval from the audience!
Lunch time followed alongside book browsing/buying/selling and we chatted to some of our customers old & new. It was great to see young enthusiasts spending their pocket money on paperbacks with relish. I am always pleased to see younger children setting out on the adventure of reading - I suppose I remember myself at that age, with all that pleasure in store. (And there is the bit of primary school teacher in me that will always be there!)
At 2.15 Georgina Hargreaves took to the floor. I had no idea what to expect, but this self deprecating and humorous lady was a real treat to listen to. According to her, she got the job of illustrating Enid Blyton books because she happened to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time when one of the Johnstone twins unfortunately died. She did indeed take over the deluxe Dean editions after the Grahame Johnstone Twins, but I don't think she has any idea of how difficult they are to get hold of now, because they are in such demand! She told us mischievously of the various characters she puts into her pictures (no I'm not telling) but she puts herself in as a fairy occasionally. She kept referring to herself, not as an artist, but just 'a mum', although she did appreciate that she earned quite a decent amount from illustrating the deluxe books for the Dean Blyton editions, and said that she did enjoy working with Enid Blyton. She told us she was allowed complete freedom in designing the deluxe editions, which looking at their popularity and pleasing results, was just as well. It was a very entertaining session.
The last session came after another tea break and book browse, and was from Pam Ally, who retired from Chorion last year, having worked as an archivist for the Enid Blyton collection for 30 years - initially for Darrell Walters. This was most interesting, and took us through the changes and times of publishing. For much of the time her job was, along with another couple of people,was collecting & archiving as much Enid Blyton works as they could, and I must admit to feeling a touch of envy at hearing just what her job had entailed for some years - especially when she told us about replying to the childrens letters when they wrote in to the famous Five Club, and the telephone calls they received from one very persistent & entertaining Famous Five young club member in Northern Ireland It all sounded a great deal of fun. However the fun obviously ran out after a few office moves, and when several take overs later they found themselves working for a boss less interested in the archives, and the Famous five Club and the whole atmosphere changed. I am sure she is now pleased to have retired, and she too, seems pleased that Hodder will be taking the Enid Blyton estate forward.
After this, for us it was a last quick chat, then a pack up of the books and off in our various directions. The sun had been shining all day. We were staying with relatives, so only had 40 miles to travel rather than going all the way back to Norfolk - and were welcomed back by a 4 year old - who hopefully will both get to visit Seven Stories and enjoy the world of Enid Blyton one day soon - although currently absorbed by Scooby Doo, Firefighter Penny and still has a softspot for Peppa Pig!