Laughter In Our Library – that’s Real Stockton

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I like to lay claim to being quite a rebel at times.   I’ve done some stuff,  been to some places.  I think I can pull off a good nonchalant shrug in the face of authority.

Put me in a library though and my true identity is revealed.  My phone rang in a library once;  I was so appalled at my horrendous transgression I made wild, silent gesticulations to show how disgusted with myself I was.  I’m still ashamed.

Although maybe it’s more than general rule-breaking, maybe a library is just a particularly hallowed space to me.  I love words; be they in journals, blogs, articles or spoken word.  Most of all though I love them wrapped up in books.  Yet even I, an avid lover of writing, had stopped going to the library.

Once I had to, I owed so much money in fines in what seemed a short time I could use it as a small talk gold nugget.  I held it in reserve for potential awkward silences.  I had wanders of imagination where entering the building I would set off sirens and flashing lights, a crack team of armed librarians leaping out and tackling me to the floor. Mostly though my absence was probably due to Amazon never-endingly suggesting me more books I may want to buy.  Great for focus on what you already know you like, but ruinous to the serendipity that rummaging through shelves can bring.

Tonight I really learned to love the Library again thanks to Kate Fox and Stockton.  I, among a sold out crowd, was deeply moved, laughed out loud and enthusiastically cheered.  All in a library.  Not a ‘shh’ was to be heard and I have been left feeling more connected to that space again.

I call on my other half Martin for my blog photos but our youngest and bendiest child was still at gymnastics (recurring theme) as Kate’s performance was scheduled to begin.  This is how impressed I was by the first half; as they arrived, just before interval, I grabbed the perspiring child and took her on an actual run to the nearest cashpoint and back (not as close as you’d think).  She complained bitterly, as if a running mother on the High Street is not embarrassing enough she was both hungry and already exhausted.  I ran on.  As that was how keen I was to buy Kate’s new book, from which she shared work on the night, Fox Populi.  I got back and got the last one off the table, totally pleased with myself.  It was absolutely worth it- even though yes I know there is an internet and I could have bought it online as soon as I got home.

There was another table of other books, given away by the Library to celebrate World Book Day; to read, share, experience, take a chance on.  Kate’s still sold out against excellent and free competition.

I knew I was going to have to get cash and buy it for sure the second Kate finished her poem Run – which is quite brilliant.  As I ran in the park for the first time alone a few evenings back some smart ass lad tried to slap me on the behind as I ran past a group.  I managed to just block his arm from his intended impact destination.  I agonised over whether to call the police- was it my civic duty to officially challenge such aggressively sexist behaviour- if I didn’t would he just carry on physically assaulting women, maybe younger women, more vulnerable women? What was going wrong at home and in the wider culture that this lad thought it was in any way acceptable to assault a stranger for his, and his peer groups, amusement? Buy the book and read Run and you will know why I literally did to buy it.

Kate is now a new hero of mine.  I’m currently compiling a list of great humans who have inspired me over the course of this year.  Its new and short- but so far it goes 1. Dr Vicktor Frankl 2. Thich Nhat Hanh 3. Kate Fox.  This is not just because she made me want to go back to Stockton Library, which I shall, or because she made laugh (although both these things are great) but as I loved the way she performed.

I am way too sensitive to others awkwardness; if a performance feels a bit unnatural or I can sense the audience starting to quietly vibrate with discomfort, I want to claw my own skin off to make it stop.  Honestly, I can’t bear it.  When Kate moved between expressing frank hilarity, through witty observations often imbued with political and social commentary whilst invoking tender emotions, not a hint of awkwardness did I feel.  This is why I imagine she is a regular on Radio 4 and has a list of such brilliant gigs as being the Poet in Residence at Glastonbury and the Great North Run, as well as great runs of one-woman shows.

It was a genuine and wonderful pleasure of a Wednesday night and I wholeheartedly thank Kate Fox and Stockton Library for bringing me the opportunity to hear her speak…

Celebrating World Book Day with accessible and hilarious performance – that’s Real Stockton.






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