Jan Williams, Author & Storyteller - What's New?

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Haarlem is a delightful town because it moves at a leisurely pace through pedestrianized streets and the local people are so good natured and happy to have lengthy chats in English. They have so much to be proud of including the delightful Fans Hals museum set in an attractive former alms house of 1608. Hals’ paintings and the earlier pictures seemed also to reflect gregarious and lively folk taking full advantage of the prosperity the cloth industry had brought them.

The Grote Markt square is still as lively and the Grote Kerk Gothic Church has the most amazing organs said to have been played by Mozart and Handel. We were lucky enough to hear it being played and afterwards there is always the time to sit relaxing by the canal.

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AMSTERDAM 11th September
Unfortunately we only had a day to visit Amsterdam and in that time we had to squeeze in two great museums! The Rijks Museum is the more established museum which has very skilfully combined the Victorian parts of the building with a modern lower floor with a fine restaurant and shop. It’s vast with over 8000 works of art. The gallery visited by everybody is called the Gallery of Honour which is not surprising as it includes Rembrandt, Vermeer, Steen and Hals. That wonderful Rembrandt of the Jewish Bride has a haunting warmth not to mention how his Night Watch with its vitality dominating this floor which is dedicated to the Dutch Golden Age. What a wonderfully comfortable series of treasures emerged in the Dutch Golden Age with Delftware, beautiful glass, wonderful flower paintings and a curious fascination with dolls’ houses for adults.
The Van Gough museum has continually been modernized and lately has had a new entrance hall but curiously the rather unimaginative straight lines in which the pictures were hung was distracting. Somehow his paintings have been over commercialized and become rather tedious in large numbers.

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The open air museum at Arnhem is rather like St Fagins with farm buildings being brought from all over Holland. We were lucky the day we went it was Countryside Day with stalls selling all sorts of food and handicrafts. The sun was shining and everybody seemed to have brought their dog. Everyone who came was given a lovely sweet apple. There were dancers in their clogs and competitions for scything the harvest and if you got tired you could travel around the site in a vintage trolley. The really impressive buildings were the windmills of course!

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This was the most magical places we visited as the museum was set in a parkland of beautiful trees. Inside were the most attractive of Van Gogh’s paintings which this summer were arranged with paintings dealing with the same themes and painted about the same time by other well-known artists which gave the work greater depth. The paintings were a private collection brought together by Helene Kroller-Muller and her husband and opened to the public in1938.
Outside are carefully selected sculptures to fit with the lovely background. Luckily we were there early in the morning so we could take a leisurely stroll and enjoy its soothing peace.

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STORYTELLING AT RED LION BOOKS: An intimate gathering enjoyed hearing telling tales from ‘An Amazing storytelling Cat’. There was also a buzz of interest in the exhibition Peter had put together of Simon Peecock’s wonderful illustrations for the Book.

CHRISTMAS SHOPPING IN WIVENHOE BOOKSHOP: Wivenhoe shoppers had an interesting choice of signings. They could either join that colourful character Martin Newell nursing his bottle of port in the back room or join in the lively chat about children’s books in the front of the shop with me!

The day had begun stormily with the great SURGE keeping people nervously awake.
Fortunately not a great deal of damage was done although many beach huts were uprooted from their foundations and moved further along the Prom. I luckily was in the warmth and comfort of Cutting Corners where the shop looking really festive with its lovely decorations.

THE MINORIES CHRISTMAS FAIR OF ART AND DESIGN; It was lovely to be given a stand with my books in the ballroom of the Minories and a grand opportunity to chat with other people involved in the arts in Colchester and see their work.

CHRISTMAS SHPPING IN FRINTON: Frinton had invited Wendy Simons to organize their night and her musical contacts kept the street alive and crowded which spilledover into the shops. I had a busy night in Caxtons Book Shop. I think Frinton seems to be a revival in its social life, not just because it has a pub now, but there a lot of really attractive restaurants which enliven the town.

LONDON TREATS; Life can’t be all work! I did enjoy my escape to London for various treats. I loved the magic of an illuminated walk around Kew Gardens , the fun of the latest Jeeves and Wooster play and an amazing Mini-festival of adult fairy stories put on by the Crick Crack Club at the Barge House behind the Oxo Tower.

So now we are ready for the New Year. HAPPY 2014 EVERYONE. I think mine is going to have a rather Welsh Flavour. Watch this space!

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A VISIT TO GREAT BENTLEY PRIMARY SCHOOL- The school was in high spirits as it was Children In Need day with everyone dressed in pyjamas including the staff! One boy asked a curious question .”Why do you write?” Sometimes I wonder myself.

A VISIT TO ELMSTEAD PRIMARY SCHOOL- I had a delightfully warm reception and lots of animated chat after the assembly was over. Year 6 Girls proudly showed me their reading diaries. They were really looking forward to reading my book.

PETER CHAND AT THE FOLD- What a delight to have one of the most talented storytellers in Britain at our own Essex storytelling club in Billericay!
Peter’s roots are in the Punjab and it was fascinating to see how he had woven his own native stories to mirror familiar tales from Grimm.

STORYTELLING AT THE RED LION BOOKSHOP. Downstairs at the bookshop looked very attractive as Peter had set out an exhibition of Simon Peecock’s illustrations for my books. They provided me with the themes for my storytelling and a small but appreciative audience reacted with genuine pleasure. The mulled apple juice was delicious.

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WIV WORDS was every bit as impressive as I expected. Wivenhoe has a talented literary community who bubble with vitality and are remarkably supportive of each other. My contribution was a talk to adults about how my book on Essex Folk tales was put together and the choices of story I had to make. I also ran a fun workshop for families creating stories with Monsters for their heroes. It had me convinced that family workshops can be a great way of making children feel at their ease and adults can discover some unexpected creativity of their own!

A VISIT TO BRIGHTLINGSEA JUNIOR SCHOOL This was my first encounter with potential readers of ‘An Amazing storytelling cat’ and I was delighted to find that they relished all the varieties of tales and picked up the settings through Simon’s lovely illustrations. I was most touched by the child who forgot her money the first day but the next day she remembered and went off clutching her book to her chest smiling proudly ‘I’ve got my book now!’

BBC ESSEX INTERVIEW WITH MARK PUNTER-I found it a little strange to walk into the radio station to find it has no receptionist now but Mark Punter is an easy to talk to and the chat flowed easily. One or two questions startled me when he started asking me how Kiyoko would appear in a cartoon. The biggest puzzle was what sort of actor’s voice would be needed. Any ideas?

WRITERS BLOCK- This is a radio community broadcast out of a studio at the Plume school at Maldon run by Sarah Banham. She is a writer herself and prepares for her interviews very carefully by lengthy chats before the broadcast. Strangely enough the interview had a very ghostly atmosphere. Maybe this was because I read my story about the King Of Cat’s funeral . Another odd feature when Peter, my partner suggested to me ,when a listener asked for a story set in a pub , that I tell the tale of the stable hand who perished in the chimney of ‘The Bear ‘ at Stock. I never knew he listened so carefully!

ALL HALLOWS AT THE MINORIES- Martin Reed organized an intriguing night of supernatural tales on film, music ,song, readings, storytelling and even dance. The film was the most the most interesting part of the evening when people gave their accounts of their personal experiences of the supernatural.

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September 27th was a very special day for me as 'An amazing storytelling cat' went 'live' that means that my lovely collection of stories told by a Japanese bob tail cat called Kiyoko are now making their presence felt on the online book suppliers' web sites including Amazon. The cover really looks splendid as Simon the illustrator has made Kiyoko look so impressive with his strange eyes and colourful fur. I just wish there were not so many Jan Williams who write!
Strangely enough on the same day I had been invited to give one of the autumn talks on Essex Folk Tales at the Martello Tower at Jaywick. I was afraid it was going to be somewhat of a challenge with its circular space, but there was a very happy atmosphere. Kerith Ririe has managed to build up a lively community of artistic minded people there and a glorious sunny morning helped put everybody in a good mood. I did not manage to cover everything, so they are inviting me next year to talk about witch craft!

I am now looking forward to Wiv Words which is a n amazingly varied book festival at Wivenhoe put together by Petra McQueen on the weekend of October 12th -13th. Don't miss it. For details download on www.wivmayor.co.uk or the Wivwords FaceBook page.

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