Saturday 12 April. Jan and I left North Staffs at around 8.00 a.m., popped into the petrol station, filled the tank, collected Misha Herwin in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and headed for the M6, on our way to The Birmingham Independent Book Fair. Despite miles of road works with 50 mph speed limits we arrived in central Birmingham in just over an hour. Driving on the inner ring road, negotiating the Paradise Circus one-way system, all brought back memories of living in the city for twenty-plus years.
At the Ikon Gallery we unloaded the car, and within thirty minutes the Alchemy Press display was sorted and we were ready to welcome visitors. A good start to the day.
We were commanded by the gallery staff not to touch the walls. Apparently they were freshly painted as part of an art installation, executed in pastels. We were all warned that the colour would rub off on bags and clothes. This art piece consisted of horizontal bands of colour, of varying lengths, from floor to ceiling, on all four walls. Not my taste, but no doubt it meant something to someone.
There were somewhere in the region of twenty independent presses displaying their wares, selling everything from poetry chapbooks to fantasy anthologies, collections and novels – this particular group included Shadow Publishing, Boo Books, Pigeon Park Press, Fringeworks and, of course, The Alchemy Press.
Besides selling books the most important part of the day was meeting up with old friends and making new contacts. So, in no particular order, we were delighted to see so many colleagues: Chris and Pauline Morgan, Stephen Jones, Mandy Slater, Johnny Mains, Mike Chinn, David and Sandra Sutton, James Brogden, Rod and Nelli Rees, Alex Davis, Theresa Derwin, Heidi Goodie and many others (sorry if I didn’t name check you!).
Midday, Johnny Mains, Mandy Slater, Stephen Jones and I headed off to Digbeth, to a small second-hand bookshop. I kept saying that despite having lived in the city for twenty years I knew nothing of this shop. But as soon as I entered I realised that, once again, my memory failed me. Of course I had been here before…
In the evening we retreated to the Malthouse, situation on the banks of the canal, and the very pub in which Bill Clinton ate a plateful of chips some years ago – at a G7 or G8 or similar meeting. Reasonable food and drink and excellent company.
Then it was time to head home. We left at 10.00 p.m., and arrived back at Alchemy Towers past midnight. Well after rush hour, one would have anticipated a quick and easy journey; but no, access to the M6 was barred at Spaghetti Junction. So we headed up the A38 to the M6 Toll and from then on it should’ve been plain sailing. Again, no such luck. The M6 was closed between junctions 12 and 13, so it was time for another long detour, this time along the A5 and A449 (if there had been advance information I’d’ve stayed on the A38 all the way to Stone). It was an annoying end to an otherwise brilliant day.
Photo: Misha and Jan (c) Peter Coleborn