Hooray – It’s the Guernsey Literary Festival!

Last weekend I was in a local dance competition – Strictement – to raise funds for St Saviour’s Community Centre. Huge tick on my bucket list, I can tell you… But I won’t go on about that here. Instead, it’s time for the Guernsey Literary Festival, and I get almost as excited about books too. I’m helping out at a couple of talks, and really looking forward to the (sorry, sold-out) session tonight with Adam Kay, of This is Going to Hurt fame.

It always astounds me that our little island is such a creative hub, and the range and fame of authors coming to treat us this weekend is as mind-boggling as ever. As a volunteer I could have given Lionel Shriver a lift from the airport but I was worried I’d be too star-struck and might say something stupid (although I adored her short story collection, Property).

There’s always too much to cram in – next time I think I need to book myself a mini-break at the Old Government House Hotel and pretend to my family that I’m not here, so I can max out on all the opportunities.

But back to that family… My daughter was thrilled to write to Nigella a few months back, and get an actual hand-written response to her questions, so now, enthused by the Literary Festival, she’s penned a little note to David Walliams in the hope of getting him over next time:

Fingers crossed. In the meantime, there are still tickets available for a number of child-friendly events, including story time with Sophy Henn and her Ted stories, and a session with local husband-and-wife team Charlie and Magnus Buchanan with their original illustrated folk tale, Invasion of the Wavelets.

There are also some mummy-focused talks by blogger and novelist Helen Wallen, and by author and adventure activist Jessica Hepburn who will be discussing her biography 21 Miles – the story of how she met and ate with 21 inspirational women and then swam 21 miles in search of the answer to the question: ‘Does motherhood make you happy?’. Great question. I can’t wait!

Showtime with Gandeys Circus

It was the Royal Wedding day – and a stunning one at that, but that didn’t deter a fantastic crowd turning out for Gandeys Circus on Saturday afternoon. We were treated to some great grandstand seats, and thoroughly enjoyed a good two hours’ thrilling family entertainment.

As we arrived at the site near the old Bowl, there was a lot of traffic piling out from the previous matinee performance, so we had to be patient, but it was so worth the wait. I noticed that the clever ones had cycled there. Noted!

The set inside the colourful big top was intriguing – cables, trapezes and mini ladders everywhere; all would soon come to life after the sparkly opener.

First up were the incredible (and extremely muscular) Havana Troupe, and we were soon introduced to Andrea, the cheeky and loveable clown who would call on a number of ‘willing volunteers’ from the audience and keep us all entertained during scene and equipment changes. The Portuguese juggler astounded us with his dexterity… juggling tennis racquets, and catching juggled balls from on high in little pockets on his belt!

The award-winning hire-wire artists truly took my breath away. My heart pounded and I could barely watch those daredevils, who balanced on a chair and rode a bike (yes, really) across a wire seven metres above the ground, with no safety net. It was genuinely challenging, definitely dangerous and I was very relieved when it was over!

We had a bit of light relief before the next adrenaline rush, in the form of the trapeze artists – the Flying Havanas. Their awe-inspiring performance culminated in a BLINDFOLDED triple somersault and ‘double passage’ where they pass within inches of each other and somehow land in each other’s arms safely. I wasn’t surprised to hear that one of the guy’s names was Danger. That adrenaline gene must run in his family.

I loved the acrobatic artistry and core strength of the aerial artists and my son enjoyed the stunt biker who wowed us with his balancing expertise – involving a park bench and a brave fellow performer/hurdle who took it all in her stride.

Andrea did a lovely job of getting three volunteers from the audience to perform a Star Wars-esque Attack of the Clowns (and they stepped up to the mark admirably).

The grand finale took the form of the legendary Double Space Wheel – a large rotating structure consisting of four separate person-sized wheels, three of which were manned by a running person within. Sadly one artist had had a bad fall earlier in the week from one of these wheels, but thankfully escaped serious injury and came on stage to say hello. The show must go on, and go on it did. I was already very impressed by the ‘wheel-walking’, which looked dangerous enough to me, but when they started skipping on the OUTSIDE of the wheels and walking – BLINDFOLDED – well that was the cherry on the cake!

We left feeling really uplifted; what a great time we’d had and what a professional and memorable show it had been. Thank you, Gandeys, and please come back next year!


Roll up, roll up! It’s circus-time

This time next week, I’ll be at Gandeys Circus with my family at St Sampson’s, opposite the track. We didn’t get there last time, but heard lots of great things about it. This year it’s their Greatest Showmen Tour.

What’s your favourite act? Is it the acrobatic aerial performers, the hire wire walkers, jugglers or the Double Wheel of Death you’re looking forward to? Perhaps you’re looking forward to seeing Europe’s leading female clown or the cheeky ringmaster? I can’t wait for some good old-fashioned fun, mixed in with some stunning, and death-defying performances. Glad it’s them, and not me.

Gandeys Circus has been touring since 1943 and this year is being put on by the family’s fourth generation. And my family’s certainly very excited to be going.

The circus is on here from Monday 14th May – Sunday 20th May, with various performance times to choose from. We’re going to the Saturday matinee, and I’ll do a review of it here, but by then it’ll be almost too late to go in Guernsey… So make sure you get your tickets now. You can book here, or call 0871 705 5507. Alternatively, the box office opens on site tomorrow (Sunday 13th May, 9.30am-8pm).

There are posters and flyers all ’round the island at the moment. If you pick up a flyer you can also get a special deal on the ticket price.

In their words, Gandeys Circus is ‘bringing together world-class performers, new and innovative presentation techniques and unparalleled sound, lighting and costumes, all staged within a state-of-the-art Big Top – it’s no wonder that Gandey’s is now firmly established as the UK’s premier touring circus.’

Just six sleeps to go!