Mountains to Sea

The last time I was in Dún Laoghaire was when I dashed down to the ferry terminal to arrange our escape from Ireland during the Great Icelandic Volcano Sneeze of 2010, so it was a great pleasure to go back in happier circumstances, as the guest of the fantastic Mountains to Sea Festival.

The Irish summer seems to have been just as big a washout as the English one, but the sun came out for the festival, and it felt more like Italy than Ireland.  Here’s Sarah McIntyre posing beside a giant sea-urchin sculpture on the prom…

I confess I did a spot of photoshopping on this pic: pop over to McIntyre’s blog & see if you can Spot The Difference.

On Friday morning Sarah and I did a big Goblins and Monsters event for a theatre-full of schoolchildren. The Bratapult saw some action again: in this picture you can just see its goblin payload hurtling into the audience – but what on earth is McIntyre up to?

Photo: Emily Greene

It’s considered a terrible no-no these days to photograph children without written permission from their parent or guardian (the logical extension of this looniness would be to make kids wear a niqab or burqa whenever they leave the house).  So we had our audience draw Goblin portraits and then hold them up like masks, creating a truly terrifying TRIBE OF GOBLINS…

After the show we we recorded an interview for the RTE children’s TV programme Elev-8 with Orla Morris-Toolen  Here we are with her (right), cameraman Julian Hills and sound-recordist Elaine Buckley. (I can’t remember why we’re all bending at the knees like that.)

Photo: Orla’s mum!

Over lunch afterwards I discussed something deep and meaningful with tireless festival organiser Tom Donegan…

…and we also got to meet a friend from twitter, Irish film-maker Frank Kelly.  Frank’s busy finishing his latest film, Derelict, which will be having its world premiere at the Underground Cinema Film Festival in Dún Laoghaire next week.

On Saturday I helped Sarah do one of her famous Comics Jams with a group of about twenty young comics artists – there’s a full account of this on Sarah’s blog, so I won’t repeat it. Then came the Monster Book Lunch, at which the visiting authors were asked to describe what super-powers they’d like to have. I can never think of anything like that, so I suggested that the ability to call chocolate to me might be a good one (I always forget to take any with me on my trips, and then suddenly get the chocolate-munchies when I’m back in my hotel room at the end of the day and it’s too late to buy any).  Sophie O’Loughlin did this illustration of me as a chocolate magnet…

Then it was time for my final event, organised by the festival’s teen curators, Sheena, Chole and Erin, who chaired a conversation with me and Michelle Harrison, author of Unrest and 13 Treasures.  Like me, Michelle started out as an illustrator before becoming a writer, and it turns out that we were both inspired by Brian Fround, the legendary Dartmoor-based faerie-and-fantasy illustrator and designer of Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.

Festivals are a great place for writers to meet readers, but they’re also a great place to meet other writers. It was lovely to run into old friends like Marcus Sedgwick (check out the reviews of his latest novel, Midwinterblood) and to be introduced to Robert Muchamore, Judi Curtin, Jeremy Strong, and illustrators David Mackintosh and Chris Judge. (I bought a copy of Chris Judge’s picture book The Lonely Beast for Sam: he’s a bit old for picture books, but I think it qualifies as a comic too, and he seems to agree.)

I also caught up all too briefly with the magisterial children’s book reviewer Robert Dunbar, who interviewed me on my previous visit…

The Children’s Books Ireland team are lovely too; here are some of them on Friday night: Mags walsh, Jenny Murray, Adrian White and Tom Donegan, with Kim Harte in the middle proudly displaying ‘a pint bigger than her head’.  David Maybury was there too, but somehow managed to end up not being pictured…

Booksales for the festival were being handled by The Gutter Bookshop in Dublin (recently voted Ireland’s best bookshop, or best independent bookshop, or possibly the best bookshop In The Whole World, I forget). I visited the shop last time I was in Dublin, and purchased Milo, who achieved a brief notoriety on Twitter last week when he started posting sock-puppet reviews of Mortal Engines...

And who’s this with me and Sarah Webb? ‘Tis our lovely agent, Philippa Milnes-Smith, who was doing a panel on Sunday afternoon called ‘Paths to Publication’.

McIntyre was still busy on Sunday too, with a ‘picture-book picnic’ in the People’s Park and a picture book panel too, but by then I was on the ‘plane back to Exeter,  with a head full of happy memories. What an excellent festival Mountains to Sea is: tremendously well organised, but feeling very friendly and informal.  Huge thank yous to all the organisers and booksellers and technical staff and volunteers, to Carrie and David and Jenny, and especially to those I saw most of, Marion Keyes, Tom Donegan and Sarah Webb

Unless otherwise credited, all the photos are by Sarah McIntyre or me.


  1. Dark Derek
    Sep 11, 2012 @ 17:43:23

    Mr Robert Dunbar certainly looks like a character and as if he's come straight out of a children's book himself. Pleased all went well and that the weather was splendid!


  2. Philip Reeve
    Sep 11, 2012 @ 19:11:31

    Yes, he's basically Merlin!


  3. Tom Donegan
    Sep 12, 2012 @ 07:08:02

    Thank you Philip, this is a wonderful account of your visit – you're too kind with all your lovely comments about the festival! It was an absolute pleasure to have you here! Let's hope the sun shines on us again next year and that we'll see you again on these shores before too long!


  4. Sarah
    Sep 12, 2012 @ 08:07:56

    Thanks, Philip. We loved having you over – don't be a stranger. SarahX


  5. Philip Reeve
    Sep 12, 2012 @ 17:13:34

    Thank you both, it was great, and I'd love to come back some day!


  6. Jenny
    Sep 12, 2012 @ 21:44:08

    Great blog! It was lovely to meet you at the festival, am a big fan! 🙂


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