The early evening of 16th October saw the launch of ‘A Bench for Billie Holiday’ at the iconic Leeds Library, a hidden treasure in the centre of the city. I had been giving myself a stern talking to in the preceding days, and trying to manage my own expectations of the event by saying from time to time, “I’ll be very happy if I have an audience of thirty-five’.
I clanked into the library earlier on the day carrying some bottles of Prosecco, and was told that sixty-eight tickets had gone. ‘Ah well’, I thought, ‘the tickets are free. A lot of folk may just not turn up!’.
In the event I sat on the little platform provided by the library as the seats filled up around me with people from my past and my present, from every stage of my forty-seven years in Leeds. There were over a hundred people in what turned out to be a lovely occasion.
I would like to thank fellow Valley Press poets Di Slaney and Matthew Hedley Stoppard for reading with me, the audience who turned out to hear us, the brilliant staff of The Leeds Library who made it all work. And then special thanks to all those folk who have contacted me subsequently to say how much they are enjoying the book.