Bold Strokes Bookfest Goes Online

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Graffiti in Bristol from 2014: Memories of another book event

Before I begin my post proper, I just want to say that we’re living in scary times right now. Today’s report on the Sunday Times front page that the UK government wants to scrap reforms to the Gender Recognition Act and strengthen guidance on restricting trans* folks’ access to single-sex spaces mostly confirms what we already feared, but seeing it out there in such detail has me very worried. As a non-binary person, who has often hung out in women’s spaces, I worry that my presence will be challenged, as will that of female-identified butch lesbians, transwomen who don’t look feminine enough, and anyone else that doesn’t fit some idealised version of womankind. On the other hand, the law will potentially force some transmen to also use women’s facilities, which surely isn’t the outcome that those who’ve been pressing for the change could possibly want. And all that on top of what JK Rowling had to say on the topic earlier this week.

This should in no way deflect our energies from the Black Lives Matter campaign. We just need to find more energy to channel our anger into multiple causes. After all, black trans* folks headed things up at Stonewall.

And now on to happier matters…

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Last year’s Best of British at Shelsley Walsh: I hope we can all go back soon

The first weekend in June would usually present something of a dilemma for me, since it’s the closest one to my birthday and I generally have two separate events I want to go to: the ‘Best of British’ hill climb at Shelsley Walsh in Worcestershire, and the Bold Strokes Bookfest in Nottingham. This year, both real life events were cancelled, although the Bookfest managed to reinvent itself as the second of BSB’s online events for the year. I didn’t make it to any part of the first one, although the panels from that are now online, and I fully intend to watch them at some point. I did, though, sign up for several panels on each day of June’s event.

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Bold Strokes Bookfest 2013-Style: Quite Formal

The panels were conducted via Zoom, which probably explains why we had to sign up for them individually and in advance, and it was noticeable at times which moderators were accustomed to using the platform (or similar ones) and which were new to the whole process. As with my work meetings, I found it difficult to follow the livestream and take notes, as I would in a physical meeting, and ended up resorting to stitching and listening instead (not just because I had a deadline to meet for my cross stitch).

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Charlie Cochrane (2nd from right) at another event. She never stays still long enough to get a good photo of her on her own.

The panels were all very interesting and the panellists were both enthusiastic about their books and well able to speak around their topics. The first panel I attended was Crossing Borders: Writing Across Culture and Difference and, while racial diversity was addressed at some points, I think I’d have liked more of an acknowledgement of current events, especially given the goings on in Bristol over the same weekend. Justine Saracen is always a pleasure to listen to, of course. The next panel Love Changes Things: What We Love About Love Stories was a much more interactive affair, although I did feel that some of the panellists were a little too keen to restrict their comments to LesFic, even though my mate Charlie Cochrane was on there with them, and that’s definitely not her subgenre. My third and last panel of the first day was Making the Unreal Real: Beyond the World We Know, which had some excellent things to say about world-building, both for stories set in worlds similar to our own, and those set in purely science fiction or fantasy settings.

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Bold Strokes Bookfest 2019-Style: Quite Relaxed

On the Sunday, I started early with the Sunday Morning Chat between Jane Fletcher and Cari Hunter. I’m a long time Cari fan, and it was fun to watch her being fannish at Jane. Cari was also a panellist on the next: Researching the Details: Our Most Interesting Facts, and I enjoyed listening to her talk about what her different characters needed to know in order to be convincing in their roles within stories about very specific professions. After a brief break, I was back online for my final panel of the weekend Mirror, Mirror, on the Page: What Makes Representation So Important? which, as with my first of the weekend, didn’t quite go in the direction I was expecting it to.

Overall, I found that the online Bookfest had some advantages in terms of my being able to attend panels and still make vague attempts to keep on top of real life stuff. The disadvantages mostly outweighed that, in terms of the lack of proper interaction with other participants and authors, and in not being able to handle physical copies of the featured books. I’d rather have online events than no events at all, but I can’t wait for the physical versions to start up again.

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The finished cross stitch

In other news, I finished my first cross stitch, and the recipient seemed very pleased with it. I’m now working on my next one for another member of our workplace LGBT+ group, whose birthday is coming up in a few weeks time.

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