Assembled here this morning in Victoria Embankment Gardens: Left is Cressida Cowell, who had left her dragon at home, centre Philip Ardagh, who had brought his beard with him and right is Francesca Simon who was not being at all horrid (this does not describe their respective political stances). They were gathering for the Mass Lobby on Parliament for School Libraries.
Here's another luminary: Meg Rosoff. You can just glimpse her T-shirt and the yellow bags hold more. Other writers who were there were Chris Priestley, Candy Gourlay and me. (I'm bound to have forgotten someone).
|Me, An Vrombout, Cressida Cowell, Philip Ardagh, Francesca Simon, Sarah McIntyre, Meg Rosoff|
This brilliant lobby was organised by Barbara Band, Vice President Elect of CILIP, and her helpers. Those of us attending were to have contacted our MPs and make an appointment to meet them in the Central Lobby of the Houses of Parliament. But mine is David Cameron, so I was not hopeful this would work.
Barbara Band is on the left. On the way, the chant was suggested of:
Children are extraordinary
Make school libraries statutory
but I vetoed that one on the grounds it would sound as if librarians and authors did not now how to spell "statutory."
Meg suggested changing the first line to "What kids need is lots of story" and we had offers of "Here we are in all our glory." I thought maybe, "Don't bring up our kids as fools/Put a library in their schools."
But funnily enough, we had arrived at the Houses of Parliament by then and no chanting took place. I shouldn't have objected to the first one - nobody likes a pedant.
The police were charming and helpful and sympathetic to our cause. as soon as we were inside, we were directed to the café and loos but most of us heading off to the Central Lobby between the house of Commons and the House of Lords.
|Image by Jorge Royan under Creative Commons|
There the staff were, by contrast with the police, unfriendly, offhand and aloof, leaving us all quite sure who the "plebs" were. I filled in a green card for Dave, my local MP but he didn't come out. I suppose he was busy running the country. But it was exciting to hear people's names called to meet their MPs - Bill Cash, David Milliband, Michael Gove, Diane Abbott.
Indeed, Bill Cash told his Lobbyist that he was going to draft an Early Day Motion about makes school libraries statutory! And this happened, according to Barbara:
It's a no-brainer really, isn't it? If you want a literate society, put a well-stocked library, run by a well-informed qualified librarian into every school.
And the T-shirt?
It was a brilliant day and I'm still wearing my T-shirt. There are bound to be other occasions when it will come in handy.
(T-shirt photo and authors' group photo shamelessly nicked from Facebook; all others taken by me)