Sunday, 21 March 2010

Smallest Indie Bookshop in the UK

The Hayling Island Bookshop is the smallest Independent bookshop in the UK. It was the South of England Independent Bookshop of the Year, 2009.
In 2008 Terry Pratchett's novel, Nation was launched there.
Started 20 years ago the bookshop is currently owned by Marie Telford, with Events managed by her husband Colin. The bookshop has been a marvellous haven for me and resource for the past few years as I have been writing my cycle of three Hayling novels for the Young Adult market. The first title, HIDDEN, will be published by Meadowside Books in 2011 and I am so looking forward to seeing the book at the Hayling Bookshop. It feels like the realisation of a long dream.

On a recent trip to Hayling I met Colin Telford and spoke to him about my forthcoming novels. "We always support local authors," he told me encouragingly. "Visitors to the Island will also be interested in your novels." Which opens up the idea of a whole new market I hadn't even considered. Colin and Marie are also involved in the new Havant Arts Centre, The Spring, as well as the Havant Literary Festival.

Small is beautiful and over the years I have bought so many fascinating books and maps at the Hayling bookshop which have helped me in my research for my novels. My parents lived on Hayling for twenty years and I have been visiting the Island for over three decades. I have so many favourite places to revisit each time I come down. But the books and materials I have gathered over the years have added new dimensions to my writing.

Here is a sample of three of the books I have found useful.

"Two thirds of all birds on the British List can be seen here in the course of a year and ( the Island) is particularly attractive to wild fowl and waders in the winter months." I've personally spotted terns, egrets,oyster catchers, the odd heron, swans, ducks, and of course the Brent geese who winter all along the Solent from the Arctic Circle. In my novel,HIDDEN, the main character, fourteen year old Alix, who lives down at Sandy Point, thinks of the birds as her friends.
This is one of my favourite haunts, the last stop on the mainland before crossing the bridge onto Hayling Island. Sitting outside the Royal Oak pub on a sunny afternoon, drinking a beer and watching the boats float by, must the best way in the world to spend a few hours. Neville Shute wrote one of his novels in the old mill and smugglers buzzed about the Langstone Harbour in the eighteenth century, dodging the customs men.

This is a marvellous collection of memories of the Island from the people born on the Island or who have come to settle there.
"My father worked on a car park and the construction of the New Bridge - during which he fell out of a boat and lost his dentures. There were found three days later washed up by the tide. It was very fortunate." Mrs Audrey Cozens, born 1939.

"We had oyster beds at the bottom of the garden. The men there worked on the oyster-beds, worked on the yachts and raced in America." Noel Pycroft, born 1928

"I remember the bombing of Portsmouth; it was a shocking sight, night after night, and fights in the sky when the planes were being chased. We were so lucky on the Island." Mrs Mary Voller, born 1923.

Once you have been to the bookshop you can cross over the road and get a lovely cup of tea and a bun in Heidi's Swiss Patisserie. A trip to the Island wouldn't be complete for me without one of Heidi's chocolate ├ęclairs.
Supporting our local bookshops as well as other local businesses helps to support our communities and on Hayling Island the bookshop is very much at the heart of the community.
Roll on publication day!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The Chewing Gum Artist.

I have been dying to come across Ben Wilson for years. He's the chewing gum artist. His mission is to paint over the flattened splodges of gum which have been spat out all over our London streets. So I was delighted to almost trip over Ben as he crouched outside the Royal Academy last Monday lunchtime, in the freezing March wind, painting a beautiful scene on a grotty lump of gum.

Ben Wilson started painting over gum five years ago. He lives in Muswell Hill and his aim is to paint on gum all the way from Barnet to the West End. He has very nearly reached his goal. His miniature works of art have been filmed, photgraphed and featured in newspapers. Living in Barnet myself, I first read about him in my local newspaper and then I saw Ben's art featured on the BBC London Today news.

Ben uses acrylic paints and then he showed me how he makes sure the paintings don't get worn away. He got out his lighter and literally heated the painting, ensuring that the paint survived the worst weathering on London's streets. "Gangs stop me and ask me to do their tags," he says. "I'm happy to take any requests."

Ben doesn't really have an agenda, he paints whatever takes his fancy on the day. But he certainly draws attention to the amount of gum squashed on the pavements and how unsightly it is. There are hundreds of thousands of pieces of gum spat onto Oxford Street alone each year and it costs tens of thousand of pounds to clear it up. At least Ben is creating something beautiful and exciting. he's attracted so much attention you can view a lot of examples on the net.

Meeting Ben just after seeing the Van Gogh exhibition I was struck by the fact that here were two artists who would happily sit outside in all weathers in pursuit of their art. Both had found extraordinary ways of mark making which surprise and delight the eye.

Finding Ben and watching him paint on London's paved streets was pure gold, like a found poem. For Ben, his art is completely portable, carried about like part of his life.
For me as a writer, this has always been one of the wonderful things about writing. All I need is a pen and a piece of paper and I can create.
All Ben needs is the pavement and his paints and brushes. And of course a piece of gum.
No shortage of that on the road from Barnet to the Royal Academy.