Played my biggest gig to date on Friday – reading and talking about Hops and Glory on the literary stage at the wonderful Latitude Festival.
After David Peace pulled out I was moved up the bill, and given a slot between comedian Jeremy Hardy and thriller writer Mark Billingham. I was due to talk for fifteen minutes, finishing just before the Pet Shop Boys took the main stage.
But it didn’t quite work out like that.
Jeremy Hardy is a very funny comedian, a perennial favourite at festivals and on Radio 4. The tent was packed as I stood in the wings and waited for him to finish. And waited. And waited.
Ten minutes after I was due to go on, and with the compere making big eyes at him from the side of the stage, Hardy wound up – but before finishing, he invited a very cute nine year old girl on stage who promptly began to turn cartwheels around the small space. The tent went wild. And then, another even cuter little girl appeared with a birthday cake and presented it to him. The whole tent sang happy birthday, and finally Hardy left the stage. How on earth could I follow that?
As he disappeared, so did most of the audience. The synth strains of ‘Opportunity’ wafted across the valley from the main stage. “Do stay around!” pleaded the compere, “We’ve got lots more great comedy coming up with… Pete Brown!”
Oh, this was just great.
Fortunately I do now have an ‘act’ where I talk about the book, and it does have a few jokes in it. I took the stage and outside the spotlight I could see nothing. I had no idea if anyone was left in the tent apart from BLTP and Mrs PBBB. With images of birthday cakes and cartwheeling nine year-olds fresh in my mind, I said, “Um… I think I’m about to bring the tone down a little”, and started talking about Brazilian prostitutes.
Fifteen minutes later I came off stage. Some people clapped. One person cheered, but it sounded like BLTP. I’m told there were actually about 150 people in the audience, and that they laughed, but I couldn’t hear them.
Oh, and the Pet Shop Boys were brilliant – even if you don’t normally like that sort of thing.
The pink sheep were a great crowd. Everyone else watched Pet Shop Boys.