My visit to the South Ken Kids’ Festival, 13-19 November 2017 - 20 years

Sunday 26 November 2017
by  Natha
popularity : 1%

Last December, at the Salon du Livre et de la Presse Jeunesse in Montreuil (near Paris), I met Matthieu Maudet (check out his great picture books and illustrations here!) who told me about how he likes to go to London for the South Ken Kids’ Festival. I was aware of it and of its links with the Institut Français but had no idea what it was, so I looked it up... and wondered how I had not known about it before because it is in essence a festival about books and stories for children, mostly in French!

I contacted the organisers back in March to offer my help from the distance; however they replied that they needed help on the ground during the festival so I accepted for them to put me down as a potential volunteer.

When it got to the end of September, I asked in the Languages in Primary School Facebook group if any of my London friends had been before and if so whether they would recommend it; the feedback was very positive, I got 3 very kind offers of a bed for the night and the train fare was reasonable... so I booked it and said I would go! I am so glad I did!!!

When I arrived on Thursday 16th November in the afternoon, complete with my ruckasck and small suitcase for the 3 days, I could join in straight away with the preparation: we carried boxes, prepared hundreds of event-specific goodie bags and blew lots of blue balloons... so much so that our fingers turned blue... like Smurfs’ fingers!!

The launch event in the evening came round quickly. Unfortunately due to ill-health Michael Morpurgo couldn’t make it but a speech written by him was read on his behalf and François Place, the French author and illustrator who has collaborated with Michael Morpurgo for years, was great. He read a passage from his latest book ("La 2cv, la nuit") and it totally sold it to me; as you can see, I bought a copy of it (my pupils at the Petite Ecole de Newcastle are going to love it!) and he signed it for me! He also did a live drawing session accompanied by Ben Murray who has been in the musical version of "War Horse". I did not want the event to end: it was relaxing, emotional, fun, amazing, visual, musical... I must say the Ciné-Lumière seats are also very comfortable!

After the launch event volunteers and guests were invited to the Café Aubaine for a party: rosé champagne and buffet food just had to be enjoyed!

On the Friday morning I had some time to spend with a couple of friends around the South Kensington area and we spent ages in the amazing Librairie La Page; it was like being in a book shop in France! Check it out here!  We then had a delicious lunch round the corner at Raison d’être Café, which I also strongly recommend you try out and can check out here.


I joined the South Ken Kids’ Festival team again for the afternoon: we carried more boxes, made more goodie bags and blew more balloons!! I also cut out leaf shapes for a workshop and we put lots of drawing paper up on some walls for another. To be fair, we never stopped and had to work pretty fast, but the atmosphere was so friendly throughout; I always felt appreciated, which I believe is crucial!

The Saturday was the biggest and busiest time of all. Throughout the day, I walked a lot of steps taking goodie bags to where they needed to be (often up 2 floors from where we made them!); I helped manage queues of people waiting to get books signed or to get into a room for the next event; I took some children to a workshop with Hélène Druvert (what a talented artist, check out her books which are work of art!) and helped everyone out (more cutting out!); I saw part of the Live Drawing by Axel Scheffler (yes, the Gruffalo illustrator!) and Aurélie Guillerey (another very talented illustrator who loves drawing children’s bedrooms!); told stories to children and adults waiting; met Matthieu Maudet and Stephanie Blake (yes, the author of "Caca boudin"!) again and they signed books for me; saw part of another Live Drawing with Gaëtan Dorémus (another great artist, from northern France like me, whom I discovered and met there!), Hélène Druvert and Matthieu Maudet and finally the Impro! event where all the illustrators joined in... but during which it was time for me to leave to catch my train back to Durham!! I must admit that I reluctantly did so... and if it wasn’t for my own children I would have stayed, especially as I missed the wine and cheese evening which was on Saturday evening, organised for the festival’s workers, artists and volunteers only! I wish I had been there!! Next time I volunteer I will time my leaving better for sure...

When I was on the train, I thought that it was odd that noone mentioned my unique French-Geordie English accent... then realised that it was because I had nearly exclusively spoken in French the whole time!!










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