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Beasts! Beasts all over the Library!

Orcas and Dinos and Bears, oh my!

A parliament of strange beasties crept and swooped and skittered across Covent Garden last night, as Sidekick ran wild with Birds, Tiger and Terrible Lizards: A Literary Bestiary!

We all scrambled down to the fancy Library members club for a night of mask-making, quizzing, poetry and partying:

A feathered raccoon, a many-eyed bear and a very stripey long-eared bat. Dr Moreau would be proud.

The event was a celebration of three of our snarliest titles:

JT Welsch came down from York for a fantastic set, which brought to life the prehistoric stars of Hell Creek Anthology (not to mention his splendid tribute to his dog, who couldn’t make it along).

The poets of Birdbook III: Farmland, Heathland, Mountain, Moorland treated us to their finest animal poetry.

Sarah Hesketh reads some merlin magic. 

Chris Jones describes the ring ouzel.

Alison Brackenbury speaks of the fieldfare and redwing

Christopher Reid on the carrion crow and corncrake.

Dzifa Benson talks little owl and wood pigeon.
Richard Osmond goes all golden eagle

Chris Beckett takes on the woodlark and red grouse.

And Jon and K sprinkled some movie magic in there too with a couple of extracts from Lives Beyond Us.
Photo courtesy of Ian McLachlan

Photo courtesy of Ian McLachlan

The rightful quiz victor was Peter Daniels, whose poem addressed the rook.

Thank you to Library for hosting us, Ana Sefer for inviting us, all of the readers, the poets and artists of Birdbook III and the masquerading, dino-drawing, quizzical, wonderful audience. You!

I’ll leave you with the winner of the mask-making. Transforming a bear into an orca, indeed.

The Sidekick Advent Calendar: Days 17-23 Bonanza Catchup!

Dr F’s eager (read: terrified and on precarious contracts) elves have been busily Twine-ifying some of the old alchemist’s favourite poems, making them interactive and, frankly, semi-sentient for the Sidekick Play-Poem Archive. On top of this, Fulminarian minions Jon and Kirsty have provided commentaries on the poems, so now you get to see what we really think. Here’s a roundup of the most recent additions this yuletide, with extra giffitude:

Day 17

Day 18

Day 19

Day 20

The Sidekick Advent Calendar: Day 6

A slight change of pace for Day 6, as we interview artist Lois Cordelia about her work on the Birdbook series and her stunning live demos.

Here’s a taster!

Kirsten: Who are your major artistic influences?

Lois: My major artistic influence has been children’s illustrator Jan Pienkowski (born 1936, in Warsaw), in whose West London studio I have worked part-time as an artist’s assistant since the days of my GCSE art reference project (1999). Jan is best known for his Meg and Mog series, and for his pioneering pop-up books, including Haunted House, but he has also created many volumes of silhouette illustrations with a strong fairy-tale emphasis. His intricate silhouettes were originally hand-drawn, until I began cutting them out for him, based on his drawings, using a scalpel.

The most valuable thing I have absorbed from working so closely with Jan all these years is not the knowledge of art techniques, but rather his eccentric, sometimes completely ‘crazy’ approach towards art, and more generally towards life.

Most refreshing of all is his attitude towards so-called ‘mistakes’: Jan does not believe in mistakes. When something has just gone horribly ‘wrong’, he exclaims: “Wait! Maybe it’s better like that!”

You can read the rest of the interview here on Lois’s site.

The Sidekick Advent Calendar: Day 1

It’s time! No more lying around indolently, occasionally dispensing a beauteous volume or two – December means cranking out a new digital wonder every day for our increasingly merry audience and test subjects.

This year we’re introducing you to an experimental format: the play-poem. That’s to say, we’re launching the Sidekick Play-Poem Archive, which we aim to build, little by little, into a dazzling library of online verseketeering!

The play-poem is an adaptation of your regular print poem with a mild twist: it unfolds a step at a time on the screen, rather than appearing all at once and intact. In this way, it has something in common with hearing a poem performed, as well as an obvious connection to interactive narratives.

In the lead-up to Christmas, we’ll be publishing one a day, adapting poems from our books and adding a short commentary. Today, to kick us off, we have the poem Hobby Falcon Theory (Falco subbuteo) by James Midgley, taken from Birdbook: Farmland, Heathland, Mountain, Moorland. Click away, if you will.

A Sidekick Advent Calendar: Day 1

Well , well, well! Yes, yes, yes! Dr F and Sidekick are counting down to Christmas this year with an array of pleasant and disturbing seasonally-related items to dispense daily from the digital laboratory, via the Sidekick blog, Facebook and Twitter. The ghost-poems (ghoems?) of past, present and future are all accounted for, with previews, revisitations and brand new work all to come. And quizzes too!

On the first day of Christmas (which is technically the 25th December but to this end, it is the 1st), my true love gave to me …

… a partridge in a preview from Birdbook 3. Click here to view in pdf format.

The third and penultimate volume in our ongoing series (full title Birdbook: Farmland. Heathland, Mountain, Moorland)  is currently circling a definitive release date early next year, once the good doctor has finished working through snowy reams of hand-written calculations reaching deep into the catacombs. Here’s an exclusive taster – the plump and chestnutty grey partridge, poem by Philip Cowell, paper-cutting by Lois Cordelia, who is also responsible for the book’s cover art.


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