Bath Literature Festival: With an atmosphere like the lull before a rock concert, JK Rowling arrives in town

 

The queue outside the Forum, a handsome art deco cinema on Bath’s south side, stretches like a dragon’s tail, past the showbiz posters, past a sign in the window of a ChrIstian bookshop that reads “Does God Speak?”, on and on around the corner and into Dorchester Street. Eighty per cent of the queue waiting to see JK Rowling are 18-25, with a preponderance of women.

These are the diehard Rowlingites, who discovered the first Harry Potter book when they 10 or 11, and followed the saga all the way through the next 6 volumes. Could they really rustle up much excitement about her first novel for grown-ups, The Casual Vacancy, a gritty, not to say grimy and grubby, tale of a local election in a small town in Dorset?

Don’t be ridiculous. Say Hi to Margaux Herrera, 20, a student in Miami, Florida, who flew into Bath yesterday to be here. “I’ve been to four of these Vacancy events,” she said, “and they always mean I’m travelling from another country.”  Her friend Rebecca Hunt, 24, an unemployed teacher from Leicestershire, who tweets under the name @jkrowlingrocks, agrees. They’ll go anywhere to meet JK in person, and bask in the presence of the author who invented Hogwarts and taught them it was okay to believe in magic.

In the Forum’s green room, Ms Rowling’s minders and the publicity entourage from Little Brown, her publishers, are comparing notes about which problematic fans have turned up. “Mmmm…yeah, that Erica… she was at the gig in Scotland. Lots of tears… May have to watch her…” The atmosphere is like the lull before a rock concert, studiedly calm. A luminary from the Literature Festival steps up to Ms Rowling and, as if presenting a debutante at court, introduces her pretty daughter by saying: “She’s a huge Potter fan.” Ms Rowling has heard this assertion several million times before. “Ah,” she says, giving the girl a smile, “You’re one of my people.”

Rowling’s people number in scores of millions. Tonight there will be 1500 of them inside the Forum. Security is tight. A printed document advises all backstage personnel exactly when the black Mercedes Viano will purr into Bath, when the minders will take their places at the Forum entrance (to fend off any presumptuous Dementors,) and precisely when Jo’s doctor husband Neil will be ushered to his seat.

Instructions are issued about the book signing – how all book buyers will be told there’ll be no special dedications, no posed photos at the table, no other book than The Casual Vacancy will be signed – and one copy only, the book to be held open at the title page. Oh and every signature must be overlaid by a hologram to prove it’s authentic, so the brand isn’t diluted by fakes. 

“At the moment, authentic signatures on secondhand Rowling books are going for £100 a time,” says Nic Bottomley, proprietor of Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, “because she’s hasn’t done a lot of publicity for the new book. But after 1500 fans go home tonight with one signed book each, the price is bound to drop a bit.” 

That’s what happens when brands get devalued. But the Rowling brand shows no sign of flagging just yet.

Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner