From time to time, not just around Hallowe’en, I’m asked to speak at events or give a talk on witchcraft. Thanks to Piers Alexander and Anna at The Pigeon Hole, I found myself transported back to the 17th century recently, complete with sword fight, Huguenot weavers and a rollocking good reading. The party had been thrown to celebrate the great success of the birth of the fascinating rogue Calumny Spinks onto the literary scene in Alexander’s The Bitter Trade. Hence I found myself having a variety of conversations that brought many of my interests together. One of the early modern maidens promised me some black Zwartble fleece and with another I talked about weaving. After all, I am a member of the Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers! Cocktails abounded and in choosing tequila in preference to gin, I had identified myself as a Catholic for the night. Oh and I forgot to mention that the whole shebang took place in the crypt of a Roman Catholic church, the fabulous Vout o Renees. All a bit much for a school night – it was only Thursday after all.
I had been asked to do, what I termed, the warm-up slot. Fifteen minutes of witchcraft to set the scene and tie in with one of the themes of the book. This produced the vexed question of how many cocktails are too many? One on entry, one as a welcome and I had the Dutch courage to reconcile myself with facing the mike. By the time it was my turn, I’m afraid to admit I had totted up two cocktails and two glasses of Languedoc. By which time, the audience had indeed swelled, not merely doubled with my newly confident eyes, but it was really rather impressive. Being rather short of stature, even with my ‘event heels’ on, I had to tame the microphone before said warm-up could commence and resist the urge to launch into bad karaoke. However, once the nerves had been banished, I proceeded to do what I love doing…dispell the myths of the witchcraft persecution. Being billed as speaking about the Devil’s Princesses provided me with a splendid introduction.
However, it also provided me with an insight into how a book launch or party can really come alive. With carefully planned touches, such as the talking point of gin for Protestants (a nice Geneva touch) and tequila for Catholics, a rousing sword fight and maidens of the time, it was an all-round event. And there was no lack of audience participation, divided as we were for the evening, by our initial choice of drink. We all took part in the reading, by Piers and the very talented voice-over artist Roland Bearne and it really set the bar for book events. Though I’m minded not to try an interactive witch-burning.