Never has the run-up to a gig of mine been so nerve-wracking, or so top secret! How come? Read on …
It all started when BBC Radio York contacted me to let me know (highly confidentially!) that they’d chosen my ‘Birds and the Bees’ poetry show at Easingwold Community Library that week as the ‘Treasure’ in their Saturday-morning treasure hunt, called Finders Keepers. Not familiar with Finders Keepers? All is explained in this clip, from the 9am beginning of this Saturday’s show:
So, six cryptic clues that listeners have to solve by noon, taking the Radio York reporter (+ side-kick) to locations around North Yorkshire. And come down to the wire it did, this week!
The idea had been that the Radio York reporter would reach me (i.e. the ‘Treasure’) at Easingwold Community Library at around 11.50. My first job, therefore, was to arrive at the library nice and early, get myself set up and ready to hand over the all-important envelope – i.e. the solution to the final cryptic clue – and be interviewed about the upcoming event that afternoon.
And thanks to my driver-and-roadie husband Mike, that I managed to do:
Arrived at Easingwold Community Library at 11.20 with the Finders Keepers ‘Treasure’ envelope
From then on we just had to wait and hope that Radio York reporter Abigail would find her way to us. Diana, one of the Easingwold Community Library volunteers, set up a tranny in the library to follow events:
Library volunteer Diana following Finders Keepers on the radio
It got later, and later, and later – and the final clue was finally picked up, at Ampleforth College Prep School at Gilling Castle, at 11.40. The clue was:
The good news is that a couple of people phoned in not long after, with a possible solution to this clue:
The bad news is that by this time it was around 11.47, and it takes some 20 minutes to get from Gilling Castle to Easingwold. So we in the library were somewhat despondent, convinced that no-one was going to reach us by noon. Which would mean no publicity for the library and my event there.
Nevertheless, hope springs eternal, so library volunteer Diana despatched me to stand outside the library with my ‘Treasure’ envelope to see if I could spot the Radio York reporters and get them to us asap.
So there I am standing outside the library, and a woman comes running towards me with a phone clamped to her ear and she’s waving at me. I assume this is the miracle we’ve been waiting for, and I hand the ‘Treasure’ envelope over to her. She’s puffed and one-handed (other hand occupied with the phone), so together we tussle with the envelope and get it open and she reads out the ‘Treasure’ down her phone.
Now what I didn’t realise was that a) it was 11.59 by this time (i.e. one minute before the noon deadline) and b) this wasn’t actually the Radio York reporter. This is what had been happening whilst I was stood outside the library scouting for BBC reporter Abigail:
The fabulous Jess, at Easingwold Community Library, with the ‘Treasure’ envelope
So, mission accomplished! The ‘Treasure’ was found – albeit in a rather unorthodox fashion – in the nick of time. The ‘Treasure’ being:
The Finders Keepers ‘Treasure’ revealed!
‘Explanation: Easingwold Library hosts poet Anneliese Emmans Dean and her Big Buzz stories this afternoon. TREASURE’
With Jess, Treasure found, outside Easingwold Community Library
Some time later Abigail, the Radio York reporter, did reach us at the library. By this time, though, the Finders Keepers programme had finished, so there was no time to broadcast an interview with us about our event.
BBC Radio York Finders Keepers reporter Abigail with Easingwold Community Library volunteer Diana, and Jess, who saved the day!
However, Abigail did record an interview with us, and it was broadcast around 40 minutes later (as part of the next programme, hosted by Ross Dickinson):
So, our event and the library did get publicity after all!
Following all this on a phone app in her car on the way down from Scotland was Lyn Fenby, one of the volunteers at Easingwold Community Library, and the person who had invited me to come and put on a ‘Birds and the Bees’ show for them. She and her family arrived at the library just in time for the event that afternoon. I’d like to thank her for inviting me to the library for – as you heard – the first of what they hope will be a series of regular, monthly Saturday author events held there.
Having spent quite some time at the library on Saturday (!), I got to see the excellent work the volunteers do there. It’s clear that this library – like all libraries – is very much a community resource, a community hub, and it’s vital that it stay open, continuing to serve its local community. Since April, when it ceased to be run and funded by North Yorkshire County Council, the only way it can continue to perform that vital role, is through the work of dedicated volunteers. Hats off to you all!
Gig-wise, what I really enjoyed about this one was the age range of the audience. From 8 to 80-something, I’d say. And at one time or another I saw smiles on all of their faces. Very gratifying.
Some of the audience joining in
Though most gratifying of all was when, at the end of the show, 8-year-old Gus from the audience spontaneously – and very fluently – read out my Kestrel poem from my Flying High! book. Fabulous!
And finally … as it happens, this was the first show I’d put on since it had been announced – the day before – that my book Flying High! had been shortlisted for this year’s York Culture Awards (in the ‘Excellence in Writing’ category). I was bowled over when Lyn mentioned this in her ‘thank you’ at the end of the show, and presented me with a fabulous bird-themed bottle of wine to mark the occasion. Gosh! It’s been quite a couple of days!
p.s. There’s been some lovely feedback on Easingwold Community Library’s facebook page:
‘We are keeping our fingers crossed that you will come back and see us again, such an excellent, inspiring, educational and buzzing workshop last Saturday, thank you again.’
Well, I certainly hadn’t expected that I would end up as part of the BBC Radio York Royal Wedding commentary team on Friday, but that’s exactly how things turned out …
The Royal Wedding in BBC Radio York's Breakfast Show studio, with host Adam Tomlinson and Fashion City York's Russell Norton
I had been invited in to encourage BBC Radio York listeners to write some Royal Wedding ‘ditties’, and to perform some Royal Wedding poems of my own, which I duly did:
But as the morning went on, and the guests arrived in their stunning (and not so stunning) hats, and Princes William and Harry set off for Westminster Abbey, I became more and more engrossed in the spectacle …
and more and more carried away by the whole affair …
And along with Russell Norton of Fashion City York, I stayed right up to the moment Kate Middleton entered Westminster Abbey at 11 o’clock, at which point BBC Radio York handed over to Radio 4 for coverage of the wedding service itself.
As Kate made her way to Westminster Abbey, I was serenading her (had she but known it) and the Radio York listeners with a poem:
When I left the BBC Radio York studios in the centre of York, I was greeted by the fabulous sound of the bells of York Minster pealing in celebration:
Then I made my way back to my home village of Heslington …
Heslington Village decked out for the Royal Wedding
… for our Royal Wedding street party:
Our Royal Wedding Street Party, 29 April 2011
Many thanks to host Adam Tomlinson and all the team at BBC Radio York for inviting me to be part of this historic day.
Janette Ray Antiquarian Booksellers' window display in Bootham, York, on Royal Wedding Day, 29 April 2011