Elbow, the live experience

We have enjoyed a live experience from Elbow, a favourite band on a number of occasions. I love their songs, especially for Guy Garvey’s poetic lyrics. During our first Elbow concert, he explained that ‘Mirror Ball‘ was inspired by the rush of a first realisation of love. This confidence offered a memory for my new husband and me that makes this song special to us:-



You make the moon our mirror ball/ The street’s an empty stage/ The city’s sirens, violins/ Everything has changed’ Elbow Mirrorball Live with the Halle Orchestra

So close but so far away

                                                   Bathers at Asnieres- Georges Seurat

While at school, I longed to experience live works and creative people. I wanted the live experience of theatre, or see the paint laid thick under Van Gogh’s palette knife. In my first London year, much of my teaching income went toward cultural visits. I took in every exhibition I could. It was suddenly so close!


Mr Bookwagon and I share a joy in live experience. This week we took in a splendid example

Sir Mark Rylance offered a ‘radio show’ style performance of his play, ‘I Am Shakespeare‘ as part of Brunel University’s Shakespeare celebration. Sir Mark’s play compares the possible authors of Shakespeare’s plays. It was last performed last some eleven years ago. Sir Mark had gathered a group of family and friends to reprise the work for one night. To be close to a hero is one thing, but to enjoy a live experience that made me laugh till I hurt, was another. It reminded me of how important it is that all children should have equal access to visiting writers.

                                                             Sir Mark Rylance and friends, ‘I am Shakespeare’

Looking ahead

The Bookwagon school visit calendar is chockablock. Recently we enabled workshops with the wonderful picture book maker Jane Ray.  Robin Stevens, Christopher Edge and Emily Hughes will work with us in the week ahead. (Superstitions and the need for surprise prevent revelation of the full list!)

Each time we work with such gifted and generous creators, we are awed. Writers make huge efforts to inspire and inform their young audiences. Their impact cannot be underestimated.

Writers’ visits

Carnegie medal winning New Zealander, Margaret Mahy – Tale of a Tail provided my first live experience by a writerShe was bizarrely bewigged, but entranced us through story telling and performance. Since then, through luck, effort, event and location, I have been fortunate to enjoy working with or experiencing many children’s writers. Each stays with me. There is something about hearing the writer talk about his/her works that is particularly special.

Some consider that once a writer, including a songwriter, releases a work, that piece becomes the property of the audience. Perhaps. Anyone who has ever discussed their feelings about a book or song is likely to offer a subjective experience. Yet, the writer is the authority, finally, for he/she is ‘the seed’ that starts the work.


Threats to local libraries casts doubt that children have equal opportunities to interact with writers. School budget cuts mean that fewer children have live experience of a writer. Free or discounted visits, are available upon occasion, but these raise the spectre of the writer being left out of pocket. Already writers’ average earnings are abysmal, with many working extra jobs in order to earn a living wage.

The Society of Authors advises that schools plan ahead, as a number do, budgeting for events 6-12 months ahead. Suggestions include writer visits within a theme, subject, or special event, or sharing costs with another local school.


Aside from lasting memories and greater understanding as to inspiration and meaning, a live experience of a writer gives so much to a young audience. It:-

  • encourages reading for pleasure;
  • motivates creative writing;
  • shows that writing is vital;
  • builds reading confidence;
  • broadens knowledge of literature;
  • develops an ‘ownership’ of books;
  • improves library borrowing;
  • announces the school/ library as a reading environment
Emma Carroll school visit live experience

Emma Carroll, school visit

The venue

Jane Ray and Sally Thomas, librarian

Jane Ray, Sally Thomas, school librarian

Like welcoming guests to our homes, schools have a responsibility to host writers considerately. Titles should be known by pupils and staff, and the event well promoted and anticipated. Visiting writers should not be considered teacher fill-ins, to enable staff to enjoy their non-contact time, or work through English teaching points. Writers offer a special experience for all. Schools with librarians have an advantage here, in the expertise and appreciation offered.

Writers expect to sign copies of their books at their events. This is their livelihood. It’s a way to connect with readers.



What we do and why we do it

Bookwagon organises writer visits. It supports events as an independent bookseller, offering the visiting writers’ works for sale ahead of and/or during an event. Bookwagon offers information about writers,  biography and background, and descriptors of their works that schools, parents and children might make informed choices of books to buy and have signed.

We recognise the positive, meaningful and long-lasting impact that writers’ visits have on children. Bookwagon is proud of its expanding bookshop, and expertise and experience in reading.  We are committed to enabling and supporting equal and fair live experience of real children’s writers.

Titles by Bookwagon’s current guest writers

Everything You Need for a TreehouseEmily Hughes:-

Everything You Need for a Treehouse   Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy   The Little Gardener   Wild


The Infinite Lives of Maisie DayChristopher Edge:

The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day   The Jamie Drake Equation   The Many Worlds of Albie Bright


Jane Ray:-

Zeraffa Giraffa   The Glassmaker’s Daughter   Heartsong   Worry Angels


Robin Stevens:-

‘The Murder Most Unladylike’ series, including:- A Spoonful of Murder   The Guggenheim Mystery   Mistletoe and Murder   Mystery & Mayhem: Twelve Deliciously Intriguing Mysteries


We hope something there, or from our bookshop wagon piques your interest! Maybe your’e thinking ahead to your next live experience!

Happy reading! 

P.S. Watch out for exciting changes to our website!

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