Introducing Literally Book Festival Day Four

Today has started with some wonderful school events including Barbara Mitchelhill at Sacred Heart. We had a brilliant morning learning, reading and enjoying and making sure all the children were cured with Victorian cures for their ailments! There was dirty socks around the neck for a cold and filling teeth with rubber. We had a lot of fun!


Over on Twitter there was lots of thanks from schools and authors for their great days out:

This is one of my favourites!
Author Ellie Irving tweeted this picture and caption!

Spotted on the walls of a pub toilet. Ooh, the people of Coventry are sticklers for grammar!
Ellie also tweeted that she had enjoyed her event and that the children had great imaginations!

Bablake school had a visit from Alex Gutteridge, they tweeted this pic of Alex and the librarians! (wouldn’t that be a great band name!)

alexJust returned from a fascinating talk by scriptwriter Stewart Harcourt at Warwick Arts Centre. Feeling inspired!

Having a great week, visiting 3 great schools, an event at the Criterian with Cov Writers Group, and the awards last night!

Bloomsbury are sending me to Coventry. Look outAldemoor Farm Primary, get thinking about your favourite monster!

It’s been another great day and that’s not all, tonight we have the great debate

The Big Debate: “Is there any subject too controversial for teenage readers?

Join best- selling authors not afraid of a bit of controversy! Alan Gibbons, Bali Rai, Celia Rees, Dave Cousins, Andy Mulligan and Irfan Masters. Meet, mingle and carry on the discussion over some light refreshments

ECG-26, Engineering & Computing Building, Gulson Road at Coventry University. 7.30pm – 9:30pm   


Introducing the Lifetime Inspiration Award – Sir Quentin Blake

This year for the very first time we awarded a Lifetime Inspiration Award, a few weeks ago we had confirmation Sir Quentin Blake was coming to town to accept!  I was asked to say a few words, so here they are and I hope I did us all proud!

Sir Quentin Blake illustrated my childhood infact, I’ve never really grown out of the books he has written and illustrated.  They have become my read and read agains, the books I still enjoy, the books I want to share with the children I know.  Through my 16 years as a teacher Sir Quentin Blake has always been there.  My classes have all grown to love them too and his illustrations are an inspiration.

When tasked with this speech, I didn’t know where to start when talking about someone with such a phenomenal career and back catalogue, so I have thought about those books and illustrations that mean the most to me.

Predominantly, the illustrations that have stuck in my mind are those Sir Quentin created for Roald Dahl’s books.  Growing up I read mild mannered famous five books until one day in 1980 when my very own chocolate factory came to our village in the shape of the library bus.  I picked up a book because of its cover; I read that book because of the cover.  It had a yellow cover; i picked it up to inspect further the revolting looking couple staring out at me.  Flicking through the book I remember the joy of seeing illustrations, it was these illustrations that made me pick the book up.


They perfectly captured the glee in Mrs Twit’s glass eye as she watched Mr Twit eat the wormy spaghetti, the book came to life through the illustrations, they animated it as Mrs Twit stamped her feet and clapped as she told Mr Twit what he had eaten.  I can only imagine those conversations that resulted in the illustrations.  As a keen young artist, forgive me Sir Quentin, your illustrations stopped me worrying about the right way to draw hands and to just draw.  Your illustrations spoke to me, they simply worked.


Fast forward a few years to my days as a newly qualified teacher and you would find me sharing Mrs Armitage with my class, a veritable Miss Marple/James Bond hybrid of a woman.  My class loved to dissect the illustrations – what else could she fit on that bicycle?  She was way ahead of her time who knew we would end up with so many gadgets on cars in real life, and the book has the perfect rhythm for reading aloud.  Mrs Armitage inspired another generation to read, draw and write.


As a consultant working in schools I worked with Joy Court to encourage schools to shadow the Greenaway award and came across a book that has stayed with me.  The sad Book by Michael Rosen and illustrated beautifully by Sir Quentin.  A haunting story of a personal and very real bereavement and how it can leave you in turn angry, sad but also happy with memories.  Sir Quentin’s illustrations yet again capture the emotions perfectly, simple portrayals of family life, snapshots of expressive and uncomfortable emotions, when sometime no illustration is just right.  A brave book.


Sir Quentin Blake, his website says, has drawn ever since he can remember, and ever since I can remember his name has been on many of the books I want to read.

Sir Quentin has had a long career, a teacher at the Royal College of Art, curating exhibitions, writing and illustrating his own books and those of others.  He has won numerous prestigious awards such as the Greenaway Award and in 2005 was given a CBE.  Earlier this year, Quentin became Sir Quentin when given a much deserved knighthood for services to illustration.  Today we honour him as a city with an award of high accolade, a Lifetime Inspiration award and our first ever awarded.  We thank you as a city of readers for your work to entertain and encourage young and old to pick up a book and read and sometimes laugh and always enjoy.  Thank you.

Charlotte Reed – Primary English Education Consultancy Limited

Introducing Literally Day Three – The Big One!

Day three of the festival brings the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards to the city along with our award winning authors.

I’m ‘fresh’ home from the awards ceremony, still on a high from giving a speech for Sir Quentin Blake, but I have also met some other amazing people today and so have the children in Coventry!

I stewarded a first for the festival an event at Coffee Tots with Rhonda Armitage and Layn Marlow for their Inspiration Book Award winning A Very Strange Creature.  The children loved acting out the story, singing songs and doing crafts with Layn and Rhonda and I enjoyed hosting them for the day and also ‘doing the sights’ yes, we do have some in Coventry and it’s nice seeing it through someone else’s eyes!


With thanks to the fabulous Stacey Raven Photography for the pictures.

I met Levi Pinfold at the station with his steward Julia, they had a great day at Parkgate primary and they have shared a few pictures with us…

levi1 levi2

Helen Watt enjoyed her event at Tile Hill Wood, and here’s a sneaky peek at the gifts our authors get!


And the awards…what can we say about those?  Well they are always an inspiration, the readers talking about each book as ever did us proud, what a great city of readers we belong to!  Our very own Alex T Smith live tweeted through the ceremony so you can find pictures of all the winners and some comments from authors in our tweet feed!

aw1 aw2 aw3 aw4

What an amazing day and evening!  And it is still going on!  Keep following us on Twitter: @literallycov #covbkfest


Introducing Literally Book Festival Day Two

Well, there was a Coventry family feel to today with local author’s Alex T Smith, Ann Evans, Cathy Cassidy and Rosie Goodwin arriving in Coventry.

We held out first ladies (and men) who lunch event with Rosie Goodwin at Blue Bistro, it was a lovely informal way to meet an author and we really could have talked all afternoon!

rg1 rg2 rg3

Alex T Smith went down a storm at with All Saints and Hollyfast primaries with all the children joining in learning how to draw Primrose!

prim prim1 prim3 prim4 prim6

Various other events across the city were enjoyed by all ages, more event pictures will be added as they arrive!


Guy Bass Author tweeted: Thanks for everything, – mine was a fun . Good luck for the rest and keep doing what you do.

Linda Collingwood Committee Member tweeted: Brill visit at school by author William Osborne . Used to live in LA + chose to visit Cov!

St Osburg’s school tweeted: A lovely afternoon with at the Warwick Arts Centre! Another successful event thanks to

Tracy Lynch Committee Member tweeted: “Being a writer is a lot of waiting around with sml bits of very exciting stuff” tells us


Introducing Literally Book Festival Day One

What a start to the festival!

The excitement started when our very own author and illustrator Alex T Smith decorated one of the windows at Waterstone’s Coventry with a handpainted Lady Godiva and the team there added books from many of our authors.  It looks brilliant!


Events happened today at schools across the city, Warwick Arts Centre and the Central Library –

Kathleen McGuiness said on facebook “I have just hosted an author event at St John Vianney. The lovely talented, Jo Simmons came to town to tell us a whiskery mystery! She now has a whole bunch of new fans! We had a bonus though as the great Alex T Smith paid an unexpected visit too with Sian his lovely mum. It was a great event,A good time was had by all so thank you, all who were involved. What a great start to the week!”

Alison Patchett said on facebook “A big thank you to all at SJV. A group of thirty excited children and adults came back to Mount Nod after a thoroughly entertaining afternoon. What a great start to the event for our children….”

Author Sam Gayton tweeted “Thanks for having me – especially to Dom who drove me round, brought me a cheese and ham sandwich and let me call him an old fart!”

St Osburg’s tweeted “Year 5 has a lovely afternoon with author Sam Gayton.  A big thank you to Literally for organising it”

Author Lou Kuenzler tweeted: “Did lovely event at @LiterallyCov huge fun and fabulous questions from the kids.  Many thanks to all for setting it up.  Fab festival with brill stuff”

Iain Broome tweeted: “Lovely evening reading at @LiterallyCov and thanks for my #saucybookmark gift”

What a great day!  Do add your comments about any events you went to below.

Like Alex T Smith’s artwork?  Want to win it?
If you would like to win Alex T Smith’s signed Lady Godiva window poster for your school all you need to do is draw your favourite book character on an A4 piece of paper and bring it in to Waterstones Coventry by 23rd June 2013
Please write your name, age and school on the back of your drawing, and good luck! The winner will be notified by 26th June 2013

Great opportunity!  Join us tomorrow for more fun!!  If you want to write up an event you attended as a blog, please do, email to




Invite from Cathy Cassidy

Coventry kid Cathy Cassidy invites you all to her talk at Sidney Stringer:

Hello Coventry Kids,

I am so excited to be back in my old home town of Coventry to take part in the Coventry Literally Festival… how cool? I’ll be in the middle of a book tour, talking about my brand new book Coco Caramel, and it’s brilliant to be able to be a part of the book festival too!

 My event will be on Tuesday 11th June at Sidney Stringer Academy, Primrose Hill St, Coventry CV1 5LY, between 10-11.45am, and anyone aged 9-13 is welcome! The event is free but places are limited so PLEASE BOOK via

I’ll be talking about how I got started in writing and how I work now, about where ideas come from and how characters and stories are developed. I’ve even got a quiz so you can see which character in my Chocolate Box series YOU’RE most like… and there’s an amazing competition to tell you about, too! There’ll be time for you to ask questions, and books to buy and have signed and personalised too, of course.

I hope that some of you will be able to come along and make my visit to Coventry special. Will readers from my lovely old schools, Our Lady’s and Bishop Ullathorne, make it along? Or from St John Vianney, Finham Park, Ernesford Grange or Frederick Bird schools where I have done school visits in the past and met the most amazing kids? Or perhaps even Foxford or Henry VIII where I did teaching practice, long ago, when I was training to be an art teacher – or Bablake, my Dad’s much-loved old school? Maybe Cardinal Newman, Cardinal Wiseman, Barr’s Hill, Lyng Hall, Stoke Park, Westwood, Coundon Court or St Joseph’s Convent? If you live in or near Coventry, I’d love to meet you… come and find out how another ‘Coventry kid’ made her writing dreams come true!

Keep smiling, keep reading – and follow your dreams!

Cathy Cassidy


Cathy Cassidy is the bestselling author of the Chocolate Box Girls series, the Diazy Star books and stand-alone titles such as Gingersnaps, Angel Cake, Indigo Blue, Scarlett and Sundae Girl, a winner of the Coventry Children’s Book Award.

Literally Bookmarks

Last year we had Cash’s silk bookmarks made with Alex T Smith’s fabulous Godiva logo on it to give to each visiting author.  It was a special gift to say thank you.  This year we are offering the community the chance to buy one of these special keepsakes to support the festival.

Read the Coventry Telegraph article via the link below to find out more…


Introducing Author Iain Broome

On the 1st August 2012 Iain’s first novel A is for Angelica hit the virtual bookstores and I downloaded my copy onto my lovely new kindle to take to Alaska.  Iain wrote a blog about his dream and I thought you might be interested in the inner turmoil of being something but wanting something else, maybe there’s a moral there…don’t judge a book by the cover.  Although the cover of A is for Angelica is rather splendid!  So, how did Iain become a writer?


‘I played my first competitive, 11-a-side football match when I was seven years old. It was on a full-size pitch and my team needed special permission from the league, because the minimum age was eight. The age limit was there for my safety, but I didn’t care because I was big and tall and really good at football.

Many kids have trials with professional clubs and some stay with the team for a couple of years. I played for Notts County until I was 16. I was team captain three out of the seven years I was there. I won trophies. I travelled the country. It was both a pre- and post-pubescent sporting career.

But something happened in that final year. When asked about it, I’ve sometimes said that the problem was that I’d become more interested, like most teenagers, in girls and underage drinking. But that was never the truth.

The real problem was that I was supposed to be a professional footballer, but being a professional footballer was not what I wanted to be.

Then, on one blustery Nottingham evening after training, I was taken to one side, along with my Dad, and told that, unfortunately, I wasn’t going to make it.

It was hard to hear. But also a blessed relief.

By no chance or coincidence, roughly a year before I left Notts County, I wrote my first batch of poetry. It was nothing special, and it was part of my regular schoolwork, but the feedback I received lit something inside me.

A new, entirely different dream began to emerge. I wanted to be a published author.

It’s about creating a world, having something to say, and telling a story. It’s making people laugh. Making people cry.

And that’s all I’ve ever wanted. To move people by creating something that no one else has ever created and by putting words in an order that no one has or ever will again. That’s the crux of all of it.

I was supposed to be a footballer. But I’m not, I’m an author.’

For Iain’s full blog please go to

To follow him on Twitter

Or visit his author page on facebook

And what did I think?  It’s a well written book, with a fast pace and short chapters that keep you turning the pages even when you know you should be doing something else.  Some of you know that Stroke has affected my family last 12 months and I found the portrayal of being a carer to a loved one who has suffered a Stroke both acurate and sensitive and yes, quite emotional at times.  It had a subtle dark humour that I rather enjoyed.  You never do really know what is going on behind those closed doors of your rather nice suburban street…

Read it, you won’t be disappointed.  Iain will be speaking about A is for Angelica at the newly refurbished Central Library as part of Literally Coventry Book Festival.

Charlotte Reed, Literally Committee Member

Coventry Inspires Writing Competition


In conjunction with the Coventry Telegraph we are once again running our Creative Writing competition linked to our Book Awards. Sarah Crossan won the Read It Or Else Award for her book The Weight of Water and she has donated this intriguing story starter:

Karen thumped the vending machine, but her can of Coke didn’t appear. The machine simply gurgled and asked for more money. Which she didn’t have.

“Stupid,” Karen hissed, and grabbing her bag from the floor, stomped off down the empty hallway. 

“Is this yours?” someone called after her.

Karen started and turned to see a boy next to the vending machine holding out a red can. He had long hair pulled into a ponytail and dark circles beneath his eyes. He smiled and stepped closer.

Karen hadn’t seen him before, but for some reason, she shuddered and wished she hadn’t bothered with the vending machine at all.

New writers have 250 words to complete the story!

There are 5 categories:

Under 10; 11-13; 14-18; adult and 60+

The Winners and Highly Commended in each category will be invited to the Book Awards Ceremony in St Mary’s Hall on June 13th 5.00 p.m. to receive their prizes from Sarah Crossan herself. The Winners will each receive a £20 book token sponsored by Hays Education and both Winners and Highly Commended will receive certificates.

Entries should be submitted by email to or by post to Catherine Vonledebur, Features. Coventry Telegraph House, Canal Basin, Leicester Row Canal Basin Coventry CV1 4LY

Closing date: 24th May

Nb electronic entries do make circulating entries to judges much easier and ensures entries are legible!


A successful strategy from last year, where the whole class was involved, is for the class to hear all the stories and judge for themselves the best 10 to submit from their class!

Introducing Literally’s teacher supporter Suzanne Hughes

Let me start by saying how excited I was to be involved with the start of Coventry’s literally festival and how delighted I am to be involved again this year. I am passionate about reading and always have been. As a child I remember loving my sister reading “The Tiger That came to Tea” and enjoying it every night! My taste has changed slightly, although as a y6 teacher, I still love children’s literature – particularly Anthony Horowitz and Michael Morpurgo, I now have become more interested in the classics, especially Jane Austen. 

As said earlier, I am a year 6 teacher, and an assistant head at a lovely Coventry school. I am extremely lucky to be in a position that I love my job, and never wake up dreading the challenges that lie ahead. The fact that I can combine my love for children’s literature with my work is truly an added bonus. In addition to reading, I love outdoor pursuits and unashamedly, will plug Dol Y Moch – for giving children (and teachers) in Coventry such a great opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors and take measured risks. I am also very lucky to have a beautiful 16 yr old son, and an inspiring sister with 3 beautiful sons in Coventry – which in my spare time, I love to spend time with!   

Suzanne Hughes

Assistant Head St Thomas More

Introducing Literally’s Coffee Tots

Coffee Tots is a drop-in cafe located in the City Arcade. Our vision is for Coffee Tots to provide a place of safety where parents/carers can come and relax with young children, meet others and receive additional support. It is our priority to encourage parents to play, read and engage with their children, helping to improve the parent/child relationship as well as the child’s development. We run craft and cooking activities, story and rhyme times, puppet shows and have out lots of toys to play with. We are keen to encourage children’s learning whilst they make friends and play. This is why here at Coffee Tots we are delighted to be taking part in Literally Coventry Book Festival. We hope that by having a visiting author to the cafe the families who visit might be inspired to explore reading. It will be nice for the children to hear a visitor read new stories with new characters and illustrations. This promises to be an exciting opportunity for them to enjoy using their imaginations and get a flair for books and reading. Hopefully the festival will also help to encourage parents to read for their own enjoyment and promote storytimes at home. 

We look forward to taking part.

Amy Corbould

Children and Family Worker

Do you want to be our friend?

Calling all schools/settings in Coventry:

Many of you hosted or sent groups of pupils to the events of the inaugural Literally Coventry Book Festival last year. In fact over 6000 people were involved in events over the course of the week which included visits by such luminaries as Philip Pullman and such big names as Henry Winkler aka The Fonz!

The voluntary community committee led by Tracey McGeever of St Osburg’s Catholic Primary school are endeavouring to repeat and indeed to exceed last year’s success. The Festival will be held from10th – 15th June, and once again we will be looking to have a range of school hosted events as well as public events at locations across the city. 

One of our key principles is that these events should be free to participants. We want to widen the access to such opportunities to all those families that could not manage a trip to Hay, Edinburgh or Cheltenham Festivals but who are just as deserving of the inspiration such events can bring. Schools who host events also do not have to pay any fees to visiting authors or performers either.

However as you will expect there are costs involved in putting on this festival and, so far, we have been unsuccessful in grant applications to the Arts Council etc but we continue to try and we are tirelessly seeking business sponsorship across the City!

 As a further fundraising idea we have decided to offer schools and individuals the opportunity to become Friends of the Festival. For what we hope is the small and affordable sum of £50 a school would be entitled to use a logo, especially produced by one of Coventry’s most successful home grown talents:  author & illustrator Alex T Smith. Official Friends would have priority for booking places for their students at events and would be given first option for hosting an event. Host schools obviously make up the bulk of the audience at their event with small groups from other schools filling up the available spaces.

Naturally we would not restrict access just to Friends since that would defeat our principles but they would definitely get special treatment!

We do hope that you will be able to offer support to ensure that the Festival can continue to spread the love of reading and creative opportunities to your students. I know that all of you are all too aware of the increased government and Ofsted emphasis on reading for pleasure and the Literally Festival can play a key part in raising the profile of reading within your school and by becoming a Friend you will also be supporting your local community.

If you wish to take up this invitation please return the attached form as soon as you can. We have had lots of exciting offers from publishers and we need to match them up with school venues so that we can finalise the programme to start publicising next term

 Please get in touch with myself or Tracey McGeever if you have any queries or bright ideas!

Joy Court