Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Ian Clayton - A Song for my Father

Megan Smith writes:
It was fitting that, as the audience gathered in a cosy corner of Headingley library, Ian began by recounting the experience of his own first trip to a library and the impact it had upon him as a young boy. Libraries, he emphasised, are magical places, a statement that seemed to ring true where we sat. Rites of passage and inheritance were themes that ran throughout his chosen extracts. He talked of how he could have followed the dusty boot prints of his forefathers down to the pit to mine coal in his hometown of Featherstone, but stressed that his trip to the library saved him from this path, as though his act of first borrowing a book was his own rite of passage. He expressed his own fascination with local, vernacular language which was heightened by his reading in his own broad Yorkshire accent.

Memory was a recurrent theme that ran throughout his reading and he engaged with the audience on this topic; he demonstrated with verve the power of the senses for recalling memories and how this develops and enriches writing. Tell me a something you saw; a sound; a smell; a taste; something you felt from the street you grew up in, he asked various audience members. An air of nostalgia filled the room as we found ourselves remembering our childhoods almost with surprise that such small details could bring back so much.

What was most striking and appealing about Ian’s reading was the way he was able to talk about serious subjects with characteristic light-heartedness and good humour. He answered all questions with an admirable honesty and openness. His inherent optimism shone through as even when he talked about the difficulties of his father’s death, he was able to laugh and make the audience laugh along with him.

Alex Pestell writes:
There is no beating a good storyteller. Ian Clayton, author, inspirer, father, entertained the 40 strong audience at Headingly Library for a thoroughly enjoyable two hours on Tuesday evening. Speaking about his book ‘Song for My Father’, Ian had no trouble holding everyone’s attention through a series of witty yet thought-provoking anecdotes and readings from the recently released book.

Given the nature of the Headingley Litfest and the emphasis it places on supporting local authors and artists it was no surprise to hear of Clayton’s interest in localism. In terms of literature this has manifested itself in the form of a fascination with accents, vernacular and the ‘rhythm of words’. Interestingly, although perhaps unsurprisingly given the subjects of his books, almost all of Ian’s tales involved either his family or his hometown. One particular account of his first pint (or pints I should say!) with his grandfather, which he saw as his rite of passage to manhood, brought much laughter from the captivated audience.

While maintaining a comedic aspect to the evening, Ian never failed to add a touch of emotion. Discussing some of the most difficult periods of his varied life, he explained how writing acted as an outlet for his emotions, such as the grief caused by the death of his daughter Billie. This was also particularly relevant for the following discussion on ‘Song for My Father’ which looks at the search for father-figures outside of the home and how Ian dealt with being reunited with his father after 40 years of silence.

Despite spending a good deal of time reflecting on the past, Ian, encouraged by questions from the audience, added a further level of relevancy to the subjects he broached. Most notably, given our location, he stressed the importance of libraries and the troubles they face today. Telling us the story, again in a funny and engaging manner, of a school teacher who took his class to the library and kick-starting his love for books, Ian expressed his sadness at seeing the cutting of library funding across the country.

An element of creativity was also included in the event. This was done by asking random audience members to think of the smells, tastes and colours they associated with the street they lived on. Not only did this engage the audience further but highlighted how easy it is to form the setting of a story for example. Ian then explained how he used these techniques to inspire creativity at his workshops ranging from prisons to primary schools to universities.

The evening can be considered a huge success. Entertaining and inspiring, I would heartily recommend going to listen to Ian Clayton.

Audience Comments
Enlightening talk with surprising depth. Quite lot of information and knowledge to digest. Engrossing event.

Being familiar with Featherstone made it very interesting. Amazing difference in language fifteen miles apart. Friend lived in same street as Ian.

I really enjoyed tonight's event. The author has been very talented and passionate! The book will be read by many people who might (illegible) Thank you

Always enjoy Ian Clayton’s events. He is eloquent and entertaining. I have been to lots of Headingley LitFest events over the years and this was up with the best!

Ian Clayton is a very good speaker and he enlightened us with how he was brought up and his stories which are very interesting. His songs from one of his books were very good and funny as well.

Visiting from NZ. Fantastic!

Brilliant. Really enjoyed it.

An entertaining event. It was good to have a refreshment break in the middle.

Brilliant talk. Such a natural presentation.

Thoroughly enjoyed the event. Would love to hear more from him.

A very entertaining and worthwhile event. A good read and a good listen. Thank you Ian.

Top dollar, I wish I'd have brought the kids. Keep up the good work. He's written a book I am returning finished.

Thoroughly enjoyed tonight. Interesting to hear how he went about writing. Thanks for the evening.

Engaging dialogue and readings. Enjoyed the Yorkshire accent/dialect, the anecdotal riffs - especially the Shakespeare as rapper.

Excellent speaker. Authentic!

It was a very good event.

Wonderful event, Thanks.

He is a good story teller. Have read ‘Songs for my Father ‘- liked hearing it in his accent.

Slight confusion over the start time. Website said - 6.30, publication -  7.15. Author was entertaining and easy to listen to.

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