What can I say about Gillian Philip?

A person who doesn’t blink at strange ideas, but manages to out-weird them. A person who claims to be rubbish at research, who pounces on information like a peckish tiger. Who says they’re nervous talking before a seated, controlled audience, guarded by English teachers, but obviously in their element surrounded on all sides by that same audience.

Gillian knows her stuff, and despite the initial rustlings and seat manoeuvrings of her 3rd year audience, managed to keep their attention for 45 minutes discussing witch trials, strange mythological beasties, Dr Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and how stories are constantly reinvented. And although little conversations crept in to the supposedly quietly listening audience, they were clearly commenting on her talk. In fact, many pupils got so interested, they relaxed and forgot that asking a question was the last thing they could be seen doing in front of their colleagues 😀 .

So when the bell rang at the end of the period, and the kids mentally changed gear and physically gathered their belongings, I offered them a choice to leave for their next class or stay and ask questions, and was delighted when 25-30 volunteered to hang on. Twenty minutes later we had to call a halt to organise book sales and autographs, and Gillian cheerfully signed everything put in front of her (jotters, diaries, an occasional book). and was very chilled drawing a kelpie for each and every child. They practically danced out of the door when we eventually flung them out to allow a tired author her lunch, before delivering her onto her next school for yet another group of 3rd years.

After the last author event, I pondered how much performance skills mattered for an audience. Well, this wasn’t an all-singing, all-dancing presentation, and despite my efforts to publicise the event, very few pupils knew anything about Gillian Philip when they sat down in front of her. But good old-fashioned story telling still counts and it certainly caught a few in its spell today.