My Highlights: A Weekend in Cheltenham
I’ve been super busy at Cheltenham Literature Festival and have barely had time to even go to the loo. I don’t have a huge amount of energy left in me right now. I must have looked ropey in my Uber earlier as I travelled home from the station because the lovely driver handed me a Snickers and gave me a sympathetic look.
Cheltenham was lovely, the sun was miraculously shining and the festival had SO much good stuff to offer (I saw Jilly Cooper and Clare Balding in conversation which was very funny. They both just sat and talked like old friends – oh wait, they are old friends.) My sister and I reviewed a restaurant on Saturday night called Purslane and I’ll be blogging about that in full on my food section soon. I wanted to take you through my highlights as it really was a whirlwind weekend. I loved hanging out in the writer’s room, free coffee (I’m so easily pleased) and in general just being sandwiched between so many different authors. And Nick Clegg.
So here are my highlights:
Highlight 1: Meeting Lliana Bird
I did an event on Saturday with the incredible Lliana Bird, Co-Founder of Help Refugees UK and Deliciously Ella who both said some really interesting stuff. As young successful women who launched their own businesses via social media it was interesting to dig into the pros and cons of essentially having an iPhone as an office. Here’s Lliana and I signing our books in the Waterstones tent, which was a cool moment – Lliana’s book The Mice Who Sing For Sex is awesome. You know when you meet someone and instantly think I REALLY LIKE YOU? That’s what happened when I met Lliana.
Highlight 2: Getting out of my comfort zone
I did three events back to back yesterday (INTENSE). (But hey, good to be out of your comfort zone sometimes, ey??) First off I hosted a panel called “Is The Selfie Selfish?” The brief from the organisers was to host a panel of the history of the self portrait vs the traditional selfie and discuss how it’s evolved and used in society. The panellists were lovely, Michelle Thomas who you might recognise from last year when went viral after writing this blog post and Frances Borzello author of “Seeing Ourselves: Women’s Self-Portraits”. Frances opened with a 10 minute slideshow of self portraits through the ages, and spoke about female portraits compared to male ones. We then spoke about the “modern portrait” aka the selfie: comparisons between a selfie and a portrait, why we take selfies, why no make-up selfies are still seen as “brave” in the media (strange) and this idea of being “selfie ready” could be a dangerous thing. We also discussed the suggestion that selfies have helped increase the rise of Internet fame, the pressures on young girls especially and the stereotypes our generation get labelled with aka Selfie Lovers.
And let’s just say we had a mixed response. It was a huge topic and it was hard to streamline it and fit everything into an hour. Someone in the audience heckled at us extremely aggressively, saying that our conversation was “unsophisticated” (don’t get me started on how snobby that word is) and someone else wrote me quite a vicious email with a whole list of all the stuff we should have discussed in the hour.
That said, we had amazing questions from younger members of the audience, even from a lovely 12 year old sat on the back row. My take away was: weirdly, it was a success, because people got riled up and passionate in opposite aways. But then it also made me wonder whether the topic just didn’t work because it wasn’t simple enough, or if perhaps there is a generational divide around this subject. As a panellist host, it felt kind of hard to please the 70 year olds as well as the 12 year olds when talking about social media and selfies while somehow weaving in art history too. I was shocked at what seemed like a generational divide. Let’s just say I had a large gin after that panel.
It’s fascinating that we seem to be at this point in time where sadly there seems to be an air of judgement against digital natives from non digital natives (I know that sounds wanky but it’s the only way I feel I can describe it) – and this is the only time in human history that will ever happen. Millennials will be the first ever generation who will raise children having also grown up alongside the Internet themselves. Even though technology will always move on and we’ll probably be out of the loop by then, I doubt we’ll have such a big divide again, but who knows? One woman was angry that I didn’t explain in detail what a selfie actually was – so I feel bad about that, but then the teenage audience members probably would have fallen asleep.
Highlight 3: Hosting a smaller workshop with energetic creative attendees
I also did a workshop called “Building Your Online Brand” and I had a total mix of people again, this time in a more intimate room although it turned out not to be that intimate because 72 people were booked in. For some reason I thought 20-ish people were coming but I’d actually sold out! Everyone had their table and chair with their worksheet on and I sat on the stage with my slides and headset, and for a few seconds felt a bit like Tony Robbins.
I am actually doing this same (well, similar) workshop in November in London at the Hoxton Hotel. I’ll take you through steps to build and launch your own project from naming it to marketing it. Sign up here if you’re interested! The tickets aren’t on sale yet but keep a look out HERE, and the tickets are only £5.90 each.
Highlight 4: Turning a big live event into a podcast episode
Lastly I interviewed the amazing Laura Bates in front of a lovely and warm 300 strong audience at the Cheltenham Ladies’ College, Parabola Arts Centre. I recorded the entire interview about her book Girl Up for my podcast Ctrl Alt Delete. This makes a brilliant hour long special for my 40th episode. So happy I got the opportunity to do it.
Listen to the Q&A in full by subscribing to iTunes here, or listening below:
What a weekend!!!!!
“In love with Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete. So funny & smart, and reminding me of some of my own cringe teen Internet exploits!”– Anna James, former literary editor of ELLE
"Funny, honest, and nostalgic!"– The Debrief
“Emma Gannon is a bright spark of light in the world. I seriously dig everything she makes”– Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Big Magic