Beyond the ‘No Public Access’ sign on site lies the Author’s Yurt, a mystical hideaway for all the authors, participants and guests who grace our lovely gardens. For those of us lucky enough to work here, the Yurt is a fascinating place to observe the great and the good of the literary world, as well as the newbies and debut authors who are appearing at the festival.
The Yurt is home to secrets, rarely belying the clandestine goings on that occur beneath the fairy lights. But I’m offering you a sneaky glimpse beyond the boardwalk, a fly on the wall opportunity to see what we see. Obviously, I have to watch what I say here – there are a crack team of Yurtlets scurrying around who keep a keen eye on any potential intruders, and they would be quick to throw me out if I divulged too much information from behind the scenes. So I will give you merely a few snippets of what we have witnessed in the Yurt over the past two weeks:
- A giant papier mache seagull’s head (named Gully by the creator, a name too friendly to convey how terrifying he actually looks).
- An inflatable snake and cat food.
- An inflatable palm tree, propped up against the reception desk.
- Fairy wings hanging on the coat rail.
- 600 Gruffalo badges, 600 Gruffalo balloons, and one real, live Gruffalo.
- Several cake thieves who shall remain unnamed – but they know who they are.
- The impressive quick-change routine at the back of the Yurt by our lovely British Sign Language interpreters.
- Increasingly early requests for us to bring out the wine (earliest request has been 11.30am. Breakfast wine and croissants – how very continental).
- A small child pushing a dog on wheels (a toy, so permitted on site).
- Will Self’s dog (a guest of the author, so technically permitted on site).
- Roy Hattersley’s dog (an author himself, so technically permitted on site).
- Numerous musical instruments, including Frank Skinner’s banjo, Mathias Malzieu’s ukulele and Richard Holloway’s marvellous singing voice.
- Icelandic snacks (Thank you Ran, Hermann and Ingunn – not so keen on the cough sweets, but we love the chocolate wafers).
- The most impressive stookie this festival has ever seen.
And that’s just the stuff that we can tell you.