There were more thrills and spills than planned for at the launch for Matt Wingett’s The Snow Witch on the night of Saturday 28th October at Blackwell’s bookshop, Portsmouth as part of the Portsmouth Darkest season.
Thrills came in the form of Eilis Philips’ singing and guitar playing. Her extraordinary clear and powerful voice cast a spell on the audience that set the tone for an evening dedicated to Wingett’s magic realist story that is set in Portsmouth. Eilis’s first song of the night, also called The Snow Witch, was directly inspired by Matt’s novel, with a haunting melody backed with icy chords on the guitar that caught the mood of the novel brilliantly.
Two readings from the novel were given by Matt, and Eilis treated the audience to another song before a break for book signing.
Spills came when Dr Karl Bell, Darkfest organiser and co-host of the evening, slipped from the stage on his chair, sending him in a slow motion backward somersault to the gasps of the audience. Dr Bell recovered his poise with humour and grace, and, like a trouper, the show went on.
Despite the impromptu acrobatics, the Q and A session was lively, covering questions as varied as the use of myth in storytelling, symbolism in the novel and why Portsmouth is a fascinating place for telling tales. With ironic humour, Matt and an audience member penned a new slogan for the city: “Portsmouth, not as sh*t as you think,” which raised a laugh all round.
Bookshop manager Jo West was on hand to help the evening go with ease, where many people bought multiple copies of the book, while others who had received preview copies described how compelling the story is.
The evening was also enriched on this Hallowe’en weekend by audience members arriving in wonderful outfits that reflected the Darkfest theme.
A great evening, and thanks to all concerned.
The Snow Witch is available in paperback and hardback from Blackwell’s Bookshop, and from the shop on this website.
No doctors were harmed in the launching of this book.