Even with the handy sat-nav, we were slightly defeated by the town's one-way system, but made it to the George Hotel with just one major breach of the Highway Code and plenty of time left to stroll into town, have some lunch, and then make our way to the Writers' Room at the Town Hall to meet Sarah McIntyre and her husband, Stuart. I tried not to stare too much at the celebs who were lounging around, waiting for their various events, but to give you an idea, Sarah had just given a copy of her new book, Morris the Mankiest Monster, to Cherie Blair, and Michael Morpurgo and Martin Bell were deeply ensconced in their newspapers (until Sarah went over to say hello to Mr Morpurgo, jolting him into waving at us all while he bemusedly tried to place this group of people all excitedly grinning at him).
We then trundled over to The Playhouse where our event, 'Graphic Novels', was to take place, and to meet up with our fellow 'performers' (as our wristbands designated us), John Dunning (whose new book, Salem Brownstone, is just out) and Kieren Phelps (our host, and senior lecturer in illustration at Gloucestershire University). The festival organisers and stage manager were all very well practised in what to do with us, and in a few minutes we were mic'd up and had our slideshow presentations beaming onto the screen.
The panel itself went very well, I think. Each of us three creators gave a ten-minute slide-show and presentation on our work and the art of creating comics, followed by a few searching questions from Kieren, and then opening up to questions from the audience (which was about 40-strong, a nice mix of kids and adults, male and female). My talk introduced The Rainbow Orchid, its influences in both story (Haggard, Verne, Doyle) and art (clear line from various Tintin Magazine contributors to some of the present day adherents), the creative process, research, and the fact that in the end it's all about the story - not the medium especially (though comics is a wonderful, unique and fascinating medium!). It's interesting that we all seemed to have a fairly similar outlook to our creative endeavours, and are also enjoying the cusp of a new wave, I think, of UK-published comic albums from mainstream publishers (still relatively scarce). Afterwards we went out to the lobby where a travelling Festival stall of Waterstones had our books for sale, and we were able to meet our audience and sign books for them, which was very enjoyable.
That evening Elyssa and I went to a very ornate Thai restaurant with Sarah and Stuart, and then for a late-evening stroll round Cheltenham, before tea in our very nice little hotel room (where Sarah signed a Mankiest Monster we'd brought for a friend). We got back on the road pretty soon after Sunday's breakfast and managed to get home by lunch time, making very good time. All in all, a very nice event, so a big thank you very much to the festival organisers, and a special thank you too to Gemma Shelley from Egmont, who overcame a bit of a troublesome journey from London to lend her support, and to Elyssa for (once again) her great photos.
Edit: See Sarah's great write-up here.