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Neil Gaiman Book Signing at Ely Cathedral

Last week my wife and I attended the Neil Gaiman event at Ely Cathedral where he read from his new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

I arrive to find my wife already in the queue quite some way back from the cathedral entrance and was surprised, rather stupidly, to see that the queue itself spread back at least twice as far behind her as well.

The event was organised by Toppings bookshop which has two locations — one in Ely which is near where my wife grew up, and the other one in Bath, which coincidentally is the city my wife was living in when we met.

If you’ve ever been to Ely, you may have visited the cathedral. It’s a very grand space full of gothic and baroque ornamentation and decoration and so I took the opportunity to take a few photographs as usually you need to pay to get in, which we had in this case, but to see one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman.

Neil Gaiman, Signing, Ely, Cathedral, Stained Glass Windows,

If you’re not familiar with Neil’s work, he wrote the long running Sandman comics series, co-authored Good Omens with Terry Pratchett, has written several novels including Neverwhere and American Gods and also several children’s books as well, including The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish, as well as writing episodes of television shows such as Doctor Who and Babylon 5.

Neil himself, (who uses @neilhimself as his username on Twitter,) is a fascinating man in person. Quietly confident, with an underlying intensity that manifests itself more in his ideas than his speech, he is part quintessential English eccentric, part fun and charming Uncle.

Neil Gaiman, Signing, Reading, Ely, Cathedral,

He read an excerpt from the novel with excited vigour, animated and engaging and had us all rapt. Had we not all bought the book for him to sign, I’m sure Toppings would have been inundated over the next few days.

Neil Gaiman, Signing, Ely, Cathedral,

He then answered questions that the audience had written down, with wit and intelligence and talked about his wife and the problems of being married to a rock star, having a daughter who inspires you, (I can relate to that,) and why we should let kids read their own choices.

Neil Gaiman, Signing, Reading, Ely, Cathedral,

After that he read again, this time from another pending children’s book, called Forunately, the Milk, which was wonderful and funny.

Neil Gaiman, Signing, Reading, Ely, Cathedral,

Then it was time to queue to meet the man himself and have our new book signed, as well as a copy of American Gods and a painting that our 2 year old daughter made, on which he wrote some of the best advice she will ever get:
“Make art.”

Neil Gaiman, Signing, Ely, Cathedral,

He also graciously allowed me to take his picture as he signed, (I asked for permission first,) and although the light in the cathedral was very low, meaning I had to shoot wide open and at ISO 2500, was be able to get the exposure close to what I wanted.

Neil Gaiman, Signing, Ely, Cathedral,

If you ever read this Neil – thank you. You are wonderful and graciously appreciated by your fans, (He signed up to two items for almost a thousand people and agree to stay until the last person had been seen,) and if you ever want a portrait, I would love to take it for you!

Neil Gaiman, Signing, Ely, Cathedral,

Neil Gaiman, Signing, Ely, Cathedral,

Neil Gaiman, Signing, Ely, Cathedral,

Neil Gaiman, Signing, Ely, Cathedral,

Neil Gaiman, Signing, Ely, Cathedral, Ceiling

Neil Gaiman, Signing, Ely, Cathedral,

Neil Gaiman, Signing, Ely, Cathedral,

Neil Gaiman, Signing, Ely, Cathedral,

Neil Gaiman, Signing, Ely, Cathedral, Vaulted Ceiling,

Neil used one if the above photos in his own journal and linked back to me:

And as a result, I got some wonderful comments on my blog. It seems that not only is Neil a lovely guy, but his fans are too! (I guess that makes me lovely, but I’ll leave that for others to decide …)

Anyway, the offer of a portrait still stands Neil!

  • HayleyNZ on August 31, 2013

    Wow, what awesome pictures! I found via Neil’s blog on FB. I hope you get to do a portrait of him at some point!

  • Joni Bowers on August 31, 2013

    Love your photos! I saw Mr. Gaiman at his Phoenix, AZ, USA signing and will cherish that evening for a long time.

    • Narshada on September 1, 2013

      Thanks very much! We had a great evening too. 🙂

  • mary kate witry on August 31, 2013

    Your photos are magical. I have also seen Neil at numerous events here in Chicago with my family. My 12 year old son and i saw him at a signing this summer and he signed a photo of he and Will from a previous event. He was warm and kind and personal. It is really wonderful to see a creative talented person who takes joy in his audience. What a great thing to share with my younger son who wants to be an author.

    • Narshada on September 1, 2013

      Wow, thanks for that! Neil seems to be the exception to the rule, “Never meet your heroes.” I’ve never known any famous person take so much time and put so much effort in for their fans as Neil did that night, and it’s obvious that he’s like that all the time, judging from your story. He is an inspiration in all aspects of the word.

  • rupertbu2013 on August 31, 2013

    A super post, thank you.

    • Narshada on September 1, 2013

      Thanks, and thanks again for putting my stuff in front of your followers!

  • Mariana on August 31, 2013

    Fantastic photos of my beloved Neil. Thank you!

    • Narshada on September 1, 2013

      Thanks, glad you like them!

  • Chulo Marson on August 31, 2013

    Awesome photos dude!

  • Lucy on August 31, 2013

    Your photos are wonderful, I love the focus.

    • Narshada on September 1, 2013

      Thank you! The focus was dictated in part, by the low light in the cathedral, but also it looks nice too! 🙂

  • Jacki Dilley on August 31, 2013

    What beautiful photos! For us across the ocean who couldn’t be there, you brought us a good taste of the event.

    • Narshada on September 1, 2013

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed them and got a feeling of the day. 🙂

  • Yvette on September 1, 2013

    Haha that’s the back of my head in the photo just below the one of Neil signing! Fantastic day! We were first in the queue

    • Narshada on September 1, 2013

      Heh, well if you ever want a photo of the front of your head, get in touch! 😉 Glad you had a great day – us too! How early did you get there to be 1st? :O

  • Bev Preston on September 2, 2013

    I’ve been to Ely Cathedral, but none of my photos could equal yours for style, quality and atmosphere. Thanks for giving those of us who couldn’t be there a real sense of the way the evening looked, as well as a look at a gracious and amazing medieval treasure.

    • Narshada on September 2, 2013

      Thanks for the kind words. The cathedral is truly spectacular inside, which is why I spent my time taking pictures of it while waiting to join the queue! Glad you enjoyed them.

  • Keith McComb on September 3, 2013

    I came to these excellent photos from Neil Gaiman’s online journal, so I think he definitely got your thanks. *smile* Refers to them as “… some of the best signing photos I’ve seen …”

    • Narshada on September 4, 2013

      I saw! Made me very proud. Thanks for the kind words.

  • Barbara on September 4, 2013

    My sister and I were the last in, and sat right at the back because she is nervous of crowds and slightly claustrophobic, so your photos are a real delight to see (I was also guided here via Neil’s journal). We didn’t stay to get things signed because Toppings had run out of raffle tickets and by the time the wee hours arrived we would have been sound asleep, so we swapped our books for pre-signed ones instead. It was truly a great evening.

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