The Cambridge Union Chamber with Mr Stanton
Mr Stanton was an animated middle aged man with a curly black beard, bright spectacled eyes and arms which flapped like an owl trapped in the House of Lords. He was an unexpected surprise who hated being serious or limited to reading one type of book. What he liked was acting the fool, reading books, twisting a tale, having the audience in hysterics, writing stories, being silly, taking the mickey, guzzling water, reading and eating pizza and… did I mention books?
Only those of you who have read You’re a Bad Man Mr Gum may recognise some distant similarities to that quirky introduction.
I’ve just returned from an afternoon in Cambridge with my family having been thoroughly entertained by Andy Stanton, children’s author of the Mr Gum series (published by Egmont), as part of the line up for the Cambridge Literary Festival today. His zany approach was both refreshing and uplifting and cleverly appealed on many levels to both adults and children.
He began by reading various amusing excerpts from his childhood schoolwork followed by some story ideas he’d written for Mr Gum which never reached the final book. A great message I thought for all writers young and old, that even though not all ideas will come to fruition keep writing them down. You never know how they may be used in the future.
Mr Stanton was able to mix the trivial with the serious and jump from wacky to informative in the flip of a coin and was almost lyrical about his expulsion from Oxford University. He said “picture a vast meadow where you might want to look at a tree, a stream and a patch of grass or a flower.” For him reading is like being able to look at each of these elements separately or combined but he felt the university was putting constraints and limitations on which elements he was allowed to focus on. I see an even greater message lurking here. One that says you should always follow your heart – or maybe I’m misinterpreting it when really Andy is saying that “the truth is a lemon meringue.” Friday from Mr Gum would understand.
It was clear Mr Stanton enjoys performing. He was consistently engaging as he continued to tease and interact throughout. He even got those who don’t like putting their hands up to put their hands up. My youngest particularly loved the conversation between the crow and Old King Thunder Belly. Andy continued his light hearted pantomime approach right through to the grand finale of question time. He is a true entertainer and it was hilarious to experience his personality.
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