Terry Pratchett: a Memorial, Barbican Theatre

4:12 pm

Terry Pratchett Memorial gift bag - Ankh Water, Dried Frog Pills, story collection, postcards, purple ribbon pin, and black canvas bag

Thursday 14th April 2016. The Barbican Theatre, London. Book lovers from around the country gathered for Terry Pratchett's Memorial, a night dedicated to the grumpy/cheeky, old/young, wise/funny man who brought to life Discworld, among other works of fiction. The upside of going to a Pratchett event is that when you inevitably get lost on the way there, you will see someone in costume and know you're on the right course. There were top hats and waistcoats, along with many personal versions of Pratchett's own hat which did become his signature and continues as his symbol in the eyes of many. 

Tickets for the event were free and winners were chosen at random. Demand was reportedly five times higher than the number of seats available, so I was bewildered when I received an email a month before the event stating that I had been selected. Although I would call myself a fan of Pratchett's work, I am far from the people who have read every Discworld novel, know all of the lore, dress up as the characters, and recognise the personal guests as they speak on stage. I initially felt bad for getting a ticket as I knew there were people out there who probably deserved to go more than I did, but I appreciated his work (Good Omens is probably my favourite book) including his documentaries and thought he was a jolly good human being. My bad feelings made way to excitement.

It was a strange experience making my way to this event as it dawned on me I had no idea what to expect. There were no details released to the public or ticket-holders saying who was going to be there or what we were going to see. For a completely free event, what did it have in store? Well I can tell you now:

  • Pratchett's assistant Rob Wilkins presented the evening, and what a glorious job he did. There is nobody who could have done the job better. He was funny, charming, moving, and completely entrenched in the world of Terry.
  • Terry's daughter Rhianna reading her obituary she wrote for him in The Observer.
  • Tony Robinson reading Pratchett's Dimbleby lecture on his experiences with Alzheimer's and choosing to die.
  • Neil Gaiman (sob) reading his introduction to Pratchett's collection Slip of the Keyboard.
  • Dr Patrick Harkin and sculptor Bernard Pearson musing about Pratchett and his many, many idiosyncrasies.
  • Performances of Pratchett-inspired songs by the band Steeleye Span.
  • Various publishers and agents of his from over time regaling us with yet more idiosyncrasies. It was a lot of fun and I'm sure they all enjoyed sharing their favourite memories of Terry.
  • Gaiman being bequeathed with the hat and the entire audience audibly gasping. And crying. And cheering. Actual shivers.
  • Snippets of Pratchett's documentaries played on the big screen, commentated by Rob who was present in all of them.
  • An overview of future Pratchett projects. They won't be releasing any of his unfinished books (completely respectful and understood), but there are many, many exciting things on the way. 
    • Discworld encyclopedias, for the Pratchett nerds (who isn't one?)
    • A Good Omens TV-series written by Neil Gaiman as requested by Terry himself (screaming).
    • A documentary on his life.
    • A film of The Wee Free Men written by his daughter Rhianna (she is a boss).
    • A film of Mort (finally).
    • A biography written by Wilkins, again, the only person for the job.
    • A TV-series of  'The Watch' from Discworld.
After this barrage of exciting news, as the evening was coming to a close, a video flashed on the screen from none other than Eric Idle. His kind words about Pratchett brought a smile to my face, and as he pulled out his guitar we all knew what was coming. The room sang together 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life', and the night was over with happy feelings and sad feelings and all of the feelings.

M x

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