In the Company of Poets 2: from the Jaws of Disaster

The poetry anthology launch I was talking about here a couple of weeks ago went ahead yesterday.  Did it go well?  In the end, yes, but it was almost a disaster!

Everything appeared to be going fine.  After heroic work from several members of the group and quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, the proofs were agreed.  Despite a bit of drama over payment for them, the books arrived on time from the printers (I had half-expected to have to drive down to Luton to fetch them).  All the arrangements had been made with the venue, Huddersfield Library, who had even agreed to set the chairs out for us.  We spent the morning in the University enjoying a workshop on Shakespeare, interrupted only by the sound of  Chris Huck’s phone twice going off and being hurriedly silenced (something of a running joke in our little group – it seems to happen at every meeting) and then people started to leave to take things off to the Library for the launch, with plenty of time to spare.  Everything was on track – it seemed almost too good to be true.

It was!  At about five past twelve, Chris received a phone call from Sally Brown, now in front of the library where her partner was due to deliver the books.  There was a sign on the door.  “The library is closed until further notice due to unforeseen circumstances”.  With less than an hour to go to the launch of our anthology, we suddenly had no venue!

We were briefly overwhelmed by righteous anger.  How could the library do this to us – and why had they not let us know?  But it turned out, as the great wooden door opened wide enough for a member of staff to emerge, that there had been a water leak, rendering the building unsafe. And they had been trying to contact Chris about it (those rings on his phone).

What do you do in a situation like this, with the clock ticking away?  Well, we had the room in the University we had used for the Shakespeare workshop – perhaps we could use that?  But it was a bit small for the audience we were hoping would turn up.  Across the corridor was a much bigger room, but full of desks laid out in rows – not ideal for a poetry reading event.  Chris persuaded the security people to let us use that room, and half the group set about moving the desks to the side and rearranging the chairs, while others plastered the library door with posters telling people about the new venue.

We got it all done just in time.  Punters began to arrive, guided by the posters and a couple of the group who had stayed behind at the library to direct them.  Against all odds, we had a venue and an audience!  Then, just in case the day had not been stressful enough, Sally got a call from the Huddersfield Examiner.  A photographer was coming to take pictures of us before the readings started (great!).  He was stuck in traffic (oh no!)  So our long-suffering audience, having been persuaded to wander through the streets of Huddersfield from one venue to another, now had to sit around twiddling their thumbs for a quarter of an hour while we waited for the photographer and posed for the photos.

Finally, the event started.  As we emerged from chaos and confusion, the readings went very well in the end, showcasing some of the excellent poetry in this anthology.  It’s a great privilege to be part of a very friendly, supportive and talented group of poets.  Many of the audience stayed behind to ask questions and chat, and we sold plenty of books.  After painstakingly restoring the room to its former state, several of us went off to Ciao Bella for a meal, finally able to relax and reflect on an extraordinary day.  Despite everything, we would do it again, we agreed – but not in a hurry!

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