Bexhill author goes online for cancelled Brighton Festival

Malamander by Bexhill-based author Thomas Taylor was chosen as Brighton’s Young City Reads title for 2020.

By Phil Hewitt
Monday, 18th May 2020, 9:37 am
Young City Reads, Thomas Taylor, Brighton Festival 2020
Young City Reads, Thomas Taylor, Brighton Festival 2020

And already plenty of events were lining up – events all wiped out by the coronavirus crisis.

But Thomas is now salvaging something – with a special online session, delivered as a video posted at 10.30am on Thursday, May 21 on Walker Books’ YouTube channel. The video will stay there indefinitely.

Young City Reads is the brainchild of Brighton-based literary organisation Collected Works CIC, established in 2013. It offers a reading project for primary school children, and this year the organisers chose Malamander to represent the campaign. They invited children across the county to read, explore and engage with the story, all leading up to a special live event at Brighton Festival on May 21.

It was not to be. Instead Young City Reads and Walker Books invited fans to send in their burning questions for Thomas who then answered them in the pre-recorded video.

“It’s sad that things haven’t happened,” says Thomas, who is also known for his distinctive cover artwork on J K Rowling’s first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. “I try not to think about it! There were quite a few events, and the Brighton Festival event was the pinnacle, and obviously all that has disappeared. But I can’t complain too much about book festivals being cancelled when people are losing their lives. You have just got to try to do as much as you can to compensate, Zoom calls and so on. I have done virtual visits to schools where there are still key worker children at school, and I have tried to keep myself busy.

“But at the same time, I do quite like the peace of lockdown, the fact that the air is cleaner and the beach is so much calmer.

“I have lived in Bexhill for ten years. I used to live in France, in Normandy, but I felt it was a little bit too far away from my publishers and my career, and I was keen to come back to the UK. I didn’t want to come back to where I was before which was Cambridge. Even though my wife is French, she does have family that live near here so we ended up here… and it is a lovely place to be. The beach is lovely, and I love being near the sea.”

Closeness to the sea was certainly an inspiration when it came to Malamander.

The book is set in Eerie-on-Sea, a town where strange stories seem to wash up on the shore. The story follows a daring duo, Herbert Lemon, Lost and Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, and Violet Parma, a young girl searching for her parents who disappeared twelve years earlier, as they team up to solve the mystery of a legendary sea-monster. Sony Pictures have secured the film rights for the movie adaptation and Game of Thrones actor Alfie Allen is the voice of the audiobook.

“Sarah (Hutchings, director of Young City Reads) chose the book, and the fact that I am local didn’t really come into it. They just enjoy the book and felt that it would be good in the classroom. And it certainly does seem to resonate with children. I have tried to make it as appealing as possible. “The target age range is nine to 12.”


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