Her son had entered the competition, so a friend asked if I could help judge in her place. The competition had been organised by a local artist with the first prize including tickets for a talk by a well-known children’s book illustrator at the Borders Book Festival which takes place next week in Melrose. The young entrants had been asked to come up with an illustration for the cover of an imaginary book of Scottish folk and fairy tales.
So there we were – a handful of us in Melrose’s bijou library – spreading sheets of paper across an area of the floor to study the entries. A bit like a game of Patience with giant playing cards. Lots of talent was evident with imaginations ranging far and wide to provide suitable images. Some were conventional with towers, princesses, fairies and monsters, while others had a more modern, perhaps more Harry Potter take on the subject.
My fellow judge and I, with encouragement from others, each selected five of the entries – five prizes had been donated by local shops and the book festival. These were laid on another part of the floor. Then the serious horse-trading began as we whittled the ten down to five and ranked them from first to fifth.
Just as well it was a lovely evening, the day probably being the hottest and sunniest so far this year, so with Melrosians firing up BBQs or pottering in their gardens, the library was luckily not particularly busy. A third section of floor was commandeered as we extracted the five winning entries, then looked over the other two sections to ensure we had made the correct selection and hadn’t overlooked a little gem.
As the children had all drawn their wee hearts out, it would have been great to give them all prizes, but hopefully they will get a buzz from receiving a certificate and seeing their work exhibited on the library wall. Unfortunately no pictures are available so you will just need to use your imaginations and enjoy those of Melrose.
This is the tenth year of the Borders Book Festival. Its compact form has been retained to keep its intimate nature and its unique atmosphere from its situation in the grounds of Harmony House, a beautifully restored Regency town house set within a one-and-a-half hectare walled garden with the Abbey and Eildon hills as backdrop. House and garden are in the care of the National Trust for Scotland.
Next week I will be taking part in the book festival. Borders Writers’ Forum, an organisation of which I’m a member, has an event when some of those who contributed to its recent anthology Scottish Borders and Beyond will be reading from our work. This is the third time we’ve had a slot at the festival, previously at the weekend, but this year we’re scheduled for the opening evening with stiff competition from big name authors. Fingers crossed we get a good audience and that it stays dry. Rain drumming on canvas can be very off-putting.