Julian Clary in front of an audience at Newham Word Festival


Newham Word Festival: live drawing and zombie jokes with Julian Clary

The Crystal Building auditorium filled with the unmistakable sound of several hundred excited children. Primary school groups from across Newham were here for an afternoon of live drawing, readings and sing-a-longs with comedian Julian Clary.

Newham Word Festival is the borough’s literary fortnight. Blending the star power of writers like Malorie Blackman with home-grown talent, the festival unapologetically puts young people at the heart of its programme.

And no one could ask for a more delightful crowd than a packed hall of seven- to 10-year-olds who’ve been released from class for an afternoon. They’re an audience who roar with laughter even at the knock-knock jokes, and have a predictable fondness for zombies and bodily humour.

Julian CLary amongst audience members at Newham Word Festival Illustrated front cover of The Bolds Go Wild by Julian Clary

Julian Clary

Right: Clary's latest book, The Bolds Go Wild.

It might not be what you expect it to look like, but everyone can draw.

David Roberts, illustrator

Clary was here to read from his new book, The Bolds Go Wild, along with illustrator David Roberts. Clary’s series about a family of laughing hyenas disguised as humans have garnered praise as a skilled example in the celebrity-turned-author genre. Their originality and madcap humour appeal to even reluctant readers.

Roberts led the room in a series of fantastical drawing games, with the results of the audience suggestions displayed on a big screen. Everyone can draw, he said, “It might not be what you expect it to look like, but everyone can draw.” Clary told the hall, “It’s a bit like laying an egg when you write a book. Books are nice because they last forever. Someone could pick this up in 50 years' time and laugh to themselves.”

Newham Word Festival has a host of events for families and schools. Peruse the line-up here.

Julian Clary taking questions from audience members at Newham World Festival