Hundreds of families transported into a world of stories in Malarkey Park

  • Amy Thompson The Big Malarkey Festival  credit Jerome Whittingham @PhotoMoments
    Amy Thompson at The Big Malarkey Festival. Photo: Jerome Whittingham, @photomoments.

At the weekend, hundreds of children and their families stepped into an amazing place where anything could happen, transported into a world of stories, imagination, creativity and fun as they enjoyed Hull’s third annual children’s literature festival. 

Following a successful school’s programme last week in Hull’s ‘Malarkey Park’, The Big Malarkey Festival gates opened on Saturday for a two-day jam-packed programme that has inspired families of all ages.   

Back for its third year, writers, poets, cartoonists, artists, illustrators, musicians and performers gathered in East Park amongst brightly coloured tents and a huge big top.

The festival attracted a host of national and local names including Nick Sharatt (award-winning illustrator of Tracy Beaker and the Jacqueline Wilson books), Amy Thompson (Channel Five Milkshake presenter), Jim Smith (Barry Loser series), Caroline Lawrence (The Roman Mysteries) and bestselling Young Adult author Lisa Williamson (Paper Avalanche and The Art of Being Normal). 

This year’s Writer in Residence, Hull’s very own Phil Earle, explained how a street in Hull inspired his award-winning Story Street books and took families on a journey to unpick their writers block, helping to create some incredible stories.

Ellen Bianchini, Director of The Big Malarkey Festival, said: “What a festival we’ve had! It was wonderful to see East Park come to life once again with the beautiful tents and so much energy and enthusiasm for storytelling. 

“Our school’s programme was well-received and we were delighted that so many families came to the park over the weekend to enjoy the good weather in what has been a wonderful festival atmosphere. This is what the festival is all about, bringing stories to life for families to explore, share and enjoy.”

Stories were celebrated and Hull theatre favourites, The Herd, launched their book Slime, before they head off to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival later this summer.

Best-selling author of novels for young adults, Lisa Williamson, talked to families on Sunday about her writing journey and what inspired her to write her first book The Art of Being Normal, which won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for Older Fiction in 2016, and read from her new book, Paper Avalanche.

Lisa said about the festival: “The Big Malarkey is such a wonderful event! It’s lovely that something like this exists for both families and authors alike. Seeing the number of young people walking about, having a great time and writing stories is really marvellous. Many of the bigger festivals are so expensive, so to have a children-focused festival like this for the whole family to attend and be inspired by is brilliant.”

It may be a literature festival, but don’t be fooled that the festival has been just about books. While children were able to meet writers, illustrators and poets, they also listened to music, tried out new technology and had a go at all kinds of craft, drawing, writing and performing. There were opportunities to dress up and meet colourful characters from Hull’s maritime past; ask the big questions such as, ‘Does the world ever stop?’, as Hull’s own philosopher and free spirit Lee Harrison attempted to truthfully tackle the big questions that you’ve always wanted to know the answers to; while interactive workshops provided opportunities for children of all ages to start their own stories, from beginning a novel in just an hour to writing for video games.

This year’s festival also saw visitors travel through space, comics and fantasy, go back in time to the Romans and meet old friends like Elmer. 

Children had the opportunity to perform in open-mic sessions throughout the weekend, trying out poetry and storytelling out loud to an audience. 

Ellen added: “We hope the festival has shown children and their families what fantastic journeys you can go on through storytelling. Hull has many incredible libraries and we would like families to see their library card as a passport to travel to many different worlds. 

With libraries spread across all the city’s communities, we hope the festival has fuelled thinking and creativity and that families see how a library card can be a key to a world of imagination. Our local libraries are for everyone, we hope families go on to make use of the wonderful resources they offer.”

With funding confirmed from Arts Council England and the James Reckitt Library Trust and with support from Living with Water, KCOM McCain Foods, the festival will take place once again next year.

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[Laura Andrew – Home PR]

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