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The New Statesman presents: An evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer

A New Statesman event.

 

The New Statesman is excited to offer the opportunity to its readers to pre-register for our upcoming event with author Neil Gaiman and singer Amanda Palmer on the evening of the 28 May in London.

This event has now SOLD OUT. 

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Neil Gaiman 


 

Neil Gaiman is the bestselling author of books for adults and children. He is the recipient of numerous awards, and his works have been adapted for film, television, stage and radio.

Some of Gaiman’s most notable books include The Graveyard Book (the first book to ever win both the Newbery and Carnegie medals), American Gods and the winner of the UK's National Book Award 2013 Book of the Year, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. His latest collection of short stories, Trigger Warning, was published earlier this year.

 

Amanda Palmer


 

Provocative, irreverent, controversial and wildly creative, Amanda Palmer is a fearless singer, songwriter, best-selling author, playwright, blogger and an audaciously expressive pianist. She simultaneously embraces and explodes traditional frameworks of music, theatre and art.

Palmer first came to prominence as one half of the internationally-acclaimed punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls. In 2008, she released her debut solo album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer, produced by Ben Folds and accompanied by a fine art photography book featuring text by Gaiman (who Palmer has since married). After parting ways with her record label in 2010, she self-released two EPs: Amanda Palmer Performs The Popular Hits of Radiohead On Her Magical Ukelele and Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under, along with the musical theatre-esque Evelyn Evelyn concept album and tour with Jason Webley.

Amanda is widely known as “The Social Media Queen of Rock-N-Roll” for her constant and disarmingly intimate engagement with her fans via her blog, Tumblr, and Twitter (1,000,000+ followers), and has been at the vanguard of using both “direct to fan” and “pay what you want” business models to build and run her business. In May 2012, she made international news when she raised nearly $1.2m pre-selling her new album, Theatre is Evil, along with related merchandise and “experiences” via Kickstarter.

Theatre is Evil went on to debut in the Billboard Top 10 when it was released on 11 September 2012, and has been released in over 20 countries on her own label, 8ft Records. She recently launched a page on patreon.com, a new subscription-style crowdfunding platform, and is currently being paid over $22,000 directly by her fans every time she releases a piece of content.

Amanda was invited to present a TED Talk at TED’s 2013 conference. To date, her Talk, “The Art of Asking”, has been viewed more than 10m times worldwide. That year also saw the release of “An Evening with Neil Gaiman & Amanda Palmer” – a three CD collection of tracks culled from a live tour with her husband.

2014 found Amanda expanding her philosophy into a book after the success of her TED Talk. The Art of Asking was released worldwide on 11 November and made the New York Times’ bestseller list.

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Edinburgh in the time of Harry Potter - growing up in a city that became famous for a book

At first, JK Rowling was considered a local author done good, rather than fiction’s future megastar. 

In an Edinburgh playground, circa 1998, I found myself excluded from one of the world’s first Harry Potter cliques. My best friend Sophie had a copy of a book with a title which seemed indecipherable to me, but she insisted it was so good she couldn’t possibly let me read it. Instead, she and the other owner of a book huddled together in corners of our concrete, high-walled playground. I was not invited.

Exclusion worked. Somehow I procured a copy of this book, rather sceptically read the praise on the cover, and spent the next day avoiding all company in order to finish it. After my initiation into the small-but-growing clique, I read the second book, still in hardback.

Edinburgh at that time was something of a backwater. Although it still had the same atmospheric skyline, with the castle dominating the city, the Scottish Parliament was yet to open, and the Scottish banks were still hatching their global domination plans. The most famous author of the moment was Irvine Welsh, whose book Trainspotting chronicled a heroin epidemic.

In this city, JK Rowling was still considered to be a local author done good, rather than fiction’s future megastar. She gave talks in the Edinburgh Book Festival, a string of tents in the posh West End Charlotte Square. By the time I saw her (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, hardback edition, 1999), she had graduated from the tepee to the big tent reserved for authors like Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Rosen. At the end we queued up for the book signing, and she told me she liked my purple dungarees.

At that time, there were no films, and what the characters should look and sound like was a constant playground debate. Another member of the Harry Potter clique I spoke to, Sally*, remembers how excited she was that “she did the same voice for Hagrid that my mum did when she was reading it to me”.

About the same time, a rumour spread around school so incredible it took a while to establish it was true. JK Rowling was moving to the street where some of our Harry Potter clique lived. We started taking detours for the privilege of scurrying past the grand Victorian house on the corner, with its mail box and security keypad. The mail box in particular became a focus of our imagination. Sophie and I laboured away on a Harry Potter board game which – we fervently believed – would one day be ready to post.

Gradually, though, it was not just ten-year-olds peeping through the gate. The adults had read Harry Potter by now. Journalists were caught raking through the bins.

Sally recalls the change. “It was exciting [after she first moved in], but as it was just after the first book it wasn’t as much of a big deal as it soon became,” she recalls. “Then it just felt a little bizarre that people would go on tours to try and get a glimpse of her house.

“It just felt like an ordinary area of town with ordinary people and it made me realise the price that comes with fame.”

Edinburgh, too, began to change. As teenagers (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, 2003) we liked to gather at the Elephant House cafe, on the bohemian George IV Bridge. We knew it was one of the cafes JK Rowling had written in, but we also liked its round wooden tables, and its bagels, and the fact you got one of the hundreds of miniature elephants that decorated the café if your bagel was late. It became harder and harder to get a seat.

We scoffed at the tourists. Still, we were proud that Harry Potter had put our city on the map. “As I grew older, it was fun to think of her writing the books in local cafes and just being an ordinary person living in Edinburgh with a great imagination,” Sally says. As for me, it was my trump card during long summers spent with bored Canadian teenagers, who had not heard and did not care about anything else relating to my teenage life in Scotland.

The last in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was published in July 2007, a month after I left high school. Not long after that, I left Edinburgh as well. The financial crash the following year stunned the city, and exiled graduates like me. I fell out the habit of reading fiction for fun. JK Rowling moved to a house on the outskirts of Edinburgh, ringed by 50 foot hedges. The Scottish independence referendum divided my friends and family. On Twitter, Rowling, firmly pro-union, was a target for cybernats.

Then, two years ago, I discovered there is another Harry Potter city – Porto. As in Edinburgh, medieval passageways wind past stacked old houses, and the sea is never far away. JK Rowling lived here between 1991 and 1993, during her short-lived marriage, and drafted the first three chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In the university district, students wear black, ragged gowns, and the fantastical wooden carvings of the Livraria Lello bookshop is tipped to be the inspiration for some of the aesthetic Rowling applies to the books.

I don’t know whether it did or not. But it made me realise that no city can possess an author, and not only because she could afford to any part of the globe at whim. Standing in the bookshop and watching the students drift by, I could imagine myself in some corner of the Harry Potter world. And simultaneously, perhaps, some tourists queueing for a table at the Elephant House were doing the same.

*Name has been changed

Now read the other articles included in the New Statesman’s Harry Potter Week.

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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