Jacqueline Wilson at the Royal Hall
I must admit that, before attending Jacqueline Wilson’s recent event at Harrogate’s Royal Hall, I wondered how an author event in such a large venue would work (the Royal Hall can seat over 1000). Would the intimacy of listening to the author be lost in the sheer size of the setting? Turns out, I needn’t have worried as Jacqueline held the attention of her audience for over an hour with tales of her life, her writing and her larger-than-life characters.
In fact, the splendour of the Royal Hall added to the atmosphere of the event, and as Jacqueline spoke in the warm, open style that characterises her writing, she entertained the audience with tales of her youth. As is evident in her writing, Jacqueline identifies strongly with her audience. I’m sure the description of her younger self as a quiet, unconfident child who didn’t excel in maths or sports but who loved books, resonated with some of her young audience. Hers is a tale of a determination to write overcoming a lack of encouragement at home and at school, leading to a job as a teenage writer for Jackie magazine (named after her incidentally). It also led to three months living in a linen cupboard in a hostel in Dundee but that’s another story!
Jacqueline has written 95 books (she assured us she’s got enough ideas for stories to make it past the 100 mark). The character with which she is usually associated is Tracy Beaker, well-known as a long-running CBBC show. Jacqueline admitted to her fans that Tracy Beaker isn’t her favourite character; Hetty Feather (of which the newly-published Emerald Star completes the trilogy) takes that honour. She added that whilst her marketing material states that Emerald Star will be the last of her Hetty Feather books, she herself feels that she may have more to say, so watch this space.
She also confided that she is in the final stages of completing her new book Queenie and suggested that she may even finish it during the long journey home from Harrogate; a journey she would only undertake after enjoying a late lunch at Betty’s!
Jacqueline then faced some insightful questions from her young audience, asking about the inspiration for her writing. My favourite question was asked earnestly by a young child, worrying about Jacqueline’s long journey home and extended lunch, who asked “Will you make it home in time for Strictly Come Dancing?!”