Ah, it’s been a busy weekend at Blarney Books & Art! The Port Fairy Ex Libris Book Fair was on, and we hosted the official welcome for authors, artists, and booksellers on the Friday night at our bookstore. There were 80-odd at this event, and everyone mingled well. I was thrilled to meet Sonya Hartnett – an author I have admired for a long time. Also Robert Gott, an illustrator who 11 years ago came up with the concept of “The Adventures of Naked Man” and has been contributing weekly cartoons to The Age newspaper since. There were many others at this welcome, but it was difficult in the hour or so to get around to everyone!
On Saturday morning we hosted an author session, where Dmetri Kakmi (published author & personal friend) interviewed Sonya Hartnett – this proved to be an extremely popular event and Sonya a very entertaining speaker! Copies of her books were sold at the end of it (the new-book bookseller set up a table with their books inside my store), and she signed copies for those who asked.
Book sales were well and truly up for the day, with a lot of people coming through the shop. The big secondhand book sale that is a key part of the Ex Libris Fair is more or less across the road from my shop, so where we are ordinarily not quite on the beaten track, over this weekend we are magically more accessible, because people have already made their way to Port Fairy’s theatre! It may also have helped that we had an exhibition of Robert Gott’s illustrations, which was fairly well advertised. And then there was our art exhibition – not yet formally opened, but still the word was out!
Saturday afternoon we had another author session, this time with Bruce Pascoe, a man who asks us to question everything we have been taught about Aboriginals and their way of life. The minute this session finished at 6pm, with friends, artists and supporters gathering in the gallery, we trotted out the champagne and the nibblies and went straight into our official launch of our art exhibition, “New Life from Old Bones”. We had so many people supporting us, we were absolutely thrilled with the turn-out (easily more than 80!). The winners were announced, and we had four: First Prize (independently judged by a panel of three from the art world), Blarney’s Storyteller Award (a prize for the artwork that actually told the story of the book), People’s Choice (votes were taken from Friday night through Saturday to 6pm), and an encouragement award (for our one junior entrant!). See our website for all the details of the winners and images of their works.
After the awards were announced, we headed out to dinner at the pub and see Robert Gott’s discussion which was obviously themed ‘nudity’. As well as being the author/illustrator of The Adventures of Naked Man, he collects nude photographs, so we were given a slide show of some of his collection! This was followed by an intimate coffee with Sonya, Robert, Dean, myself and the two of our wonderful judges (our friends), Helen & Des at a local restaurant. All up, it was certainly a night for the diary (blog)!
Sunday we hosted another two sessions. Andrew Weldon in the morning – what a great presenter and cartoonist! He had everyone fully engaged, curious and amused throughout his session. I put on my wonderful shop assistant, Emily, for three hours through the middle of the day so we could head out for a look around town and a Father’s Day lunch, and then there was a final session by author Kate Cole-Adams. By this time, the weekend’s crowds were thinning, so it was a lighter audience, but still an interesting discussion on her first novel, “Walking to the Moon”.
The weekend has been huge, on so many levels for us. We managed to pull together a wonderful – WONDERFUL – art exhibition based on a competition, something completely unlike anything we have ever done before! And we did it without any real problems (the biggest problem was one frame arriving broken, but it was mended by our framer free-of-charge and in time for the exhibition, and this particular work sold straight away, and could have sold three times over in the one night!) We met so many incredible people over the weekend, and we were shown so much kindness by such a huge array of people that we are feeling – well – very very happy indeed.
The First Prize winner: “German Toast” by Soxy Fleming
Encouragement Award winner: Jake Budge (middle) with his “Book View”
A glimpse of the Biblio-Art exhibition.