Day 1 - Monday 8th October

Turton High School & Alder Grange Community and Technology School

In the beginning was the word, and the word was: “Turton High School.” OK, three words.

This was the first of ten stops on my tour around the Greater Manchester area, and what a brilliant start it was. 240 Year 7 pupils crammed into the hall to listen to me talk about squirrels, flying horses, and – occasionally – books.

Barry Hutchison takes the stage

I genuinely love doing school events, and I knew from the moment we stepped into the hall that this would be a good one. The librarian and teachers had really embraced the visit and got pupils fired up about my books. The school is even running a competition for pupils to design their own Invisible Fiend, so I made sure to share a few tips during my talk.

After signing a healthy pile of books, and following a weird-but-tasty lunch (a black pudding, brie and apple Panini – who knew such a combo even existed?) it was off to the second school of the day, Alder Grange Community and Technology School in Rawtenstall.

This school had been visited last year by my very good friend and simultaneous arch nemesis, Tommy Donbavand. Fortunately, I was able to undo the damage he had done during his visit, and show the pupils that an author visit needn’t be a gruelling, soul-destroying ordeal.
(OK, OK, Tommy’s events are actually quite brilliant. There, I said it.)

They were a very tech-savvy bunch at this school, and I posed for dozens of smartphone photographs as I hurriedly signed every book and scrap of paper thrust in front of me. Expect to see my quirkily imbalanced features plastered all over Facebook any day now.

So, a fine start to the tour. 20% in and everything has gone worryingly smoothly. Let’s see if tomorrow can continue the trend...

From Mike and Beth (Scottish Book Trust)

After a lovely, if at times tense, drive from Edinburgh (Beth believes fervently in ‘road-discipline’) on Sunday afternoon, we arrived in Manchester none the worse for wear. Our HQ for the week is a cool converted factory building in downtown Manchester with wacky rooms featuring vaulted ceilings and palm trees in the foyer. Seriously, palm trees in Manchester?!

We had our first school visits today, and both the schools were great. Loads of excited pupils, and keen teachers/librarians. Never underestimate the power of an interested teacher or librarian. They can make or break events, and therefore the rest of your day (week, tour). If today is anything to go by, we’ve got a great a week ahead of us!