Towers and Tales



Monstrous poster for Towers and Tales © Niamh Sharkey

Fancy spending Saturday in a castle? Lismore Castle, Co. Waterford, Ireland, to be exact. This Saturday (18/4/15) at the Towers and Tales Festival there is literally something literary for everyone. Loads of stuff for the little ones, the bigger ones, and and the teens, plus two sessions aimed at adults. Niamh Sharkey, Shane Hegarty, Darren Shan, Philip Ardagh, Chris Riddell, Sarah McIntyre, Sarah Webb, Brown Bag, all in this amazing venue for one day. I’m joining a panel discussion on ‘How to Get Published’ for adults and running an afternoon writing workshop for teens.

There’s a cafe, the CBI book doctors, animation, comic-making, monster doodling, mad hat-making, story-telling, an illustration exhibition….all in this fantastic setting, a castle not usually open to the public. Get booking and spend the whole day. You just need to do a wee bit of clicking to download the programme for full details…

A glimpse of the authors and illustrators taking part:
Top image Niamh Sharkey’s fab festival poster monster! Image of Lismore castle is grabbed from the festival site. These and photos of authors/illustrators (also grabbed from festival site) all © individual authors and illustrators and Lismore Castle.

Brown Bag Tour



Michael and Dave goofing around in lobby of Brown Bag Studios

We’ve had a long-standing invitation from our pal, David Maybury, to pop into his workplace someday for a tour, and as David works in Brown Bag, the amazing Dublin animation studios, you’d imagine we’d have been in there like a shot. But no. We waited until David was not only about to leave the building, but also the entire country. David has landed himself a fantastic new job with Scholastic in London. We figured we’d better get into Smithfield pretty quick for our personalised tour before the offer expired.

We met loads of lovely talented people and saw lots of great stuff, but we had to be careful not to take photos where anything top-secret was on display – like images from as yet unseen episodes of Henry Hugglemonster, Doc McStuffins, Octonauts, Peter Rabbit, or the brand new, first-aired-the-day-before, utterly adorable Bing.

Here are some things we could photograph!


The Brown Bag wall of… brown bags!


Derek Horan, one of the three people in Brown Bag who spend all day drawing by hand (meaning he’s a 2D artist in a building where most folk are working 3D). He chatted to us about how much fun he had doing conceptual work on the Hugglemonsters with Niamh (Sharkey) and how it is still quicker to sketch those first ideas out by pencil. As you can see, his work station is a highly personalized and visual space!


In the kitchen we met John Huikku, who worked on Frozen. Yep. Frozen. He chatted about working on the movie and told us he used his small son as a basis for the child Kristoff in the opening scenes, something we figure his son will be boasting about forever!


We said hi to Norton (Rugrats) Virgien who we have only ever met at parties. It seems he does actually work after all! He shares an office with Niamh as they work on the Hugglemonsters together, but, as Tuesday is Niamh’s day off, we had to substitute Henry for her in this pic. (Hi Niamh!)


We passed through a couple of large spaces with folk busily working on various shows. All those computers and screens make the spaces a little hot, hence the fans. We hung out for a while in one of the editing suites learning about the newest show, Bing. Séamus and Damien talked us through the different stages of development it went through and chatted about getting the details right – the blink of an eye, the light on Bing’s black fur, the squirt of a soap dispenser. We got lots more details about how it developed from children’s picturebook to screen when we met Nicky Phelan, the show’s director.


Nicky is also behind the wonderfully anarchical Granny Grim and he directs Octonauts. That chart of descending colours behind Nicky is the time chart for all 70 Bing shows as they travel through production. We got the impression that if the deep red bit had a sound effect, it would go something like ‘AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHH!”


And this is Arthur, the very chilled hound who hangs out with the IT crowd!