The student in the short course in non-fiction writing wrote amusing articles but, the young teacher wondered, was he cut out for the world of freelancing for newspapers and magazines? Was he a writer?
It was such a memorable meeting of minds that I had no recollection of it whatsoever until 25 years later, when the former student introduced himself at a launch event for the 2015 Williamstown Literary Festival.
By then a rather popular author here and abroad, Andy Griffiths said, “You showed me, way back then, that non-fiction writing was not for me. From then on I concentrated on children’s books.”
Andy teamed up with illustrator Terry Denton and a publishing colossus was born. Just Tricking! Just Disgusting! Just Stupid! Just Macbeth! The Bum trilogy. And the phenomenal Treehouse series.
Andy was in the audience at our 2015 WLF concert, at the invitation of then-festival director Loraine Callow, who was keen for Andy’s perspective and possible involvement, should the show have a future. (A long-time supporter of the festival, Andy had already been part of a similar show, Liner Notes, at other writers festivals. And he’d been in punk bands way back.)
In 2016, Andy joined our ensemble, debuting with a Liner Notes story about his passion for Alice Cooper. For the band it was a baptism of fire. Andy wanted the band to play parts of two Alice Cooper songs (a Stereo Story is usually about just one song) and he wanted to throw a Vincent Price monologue into the mix.
It was the start of, as they say, a beautiful friendship.
In 2017 came Andy’s take on Stevie Wright’s Guitar Band, including a snippet of a song of his own that he workshopped with the band. That year Andy brought his friend Markus Zusak to the festival, whose Stereo Story about the Neil Young song Crime In The City explored writers’ block in the aftermath of the huge success of The Book Thief.
Then in 2018 Andy really threw the cat amongst the pigeons with a story about an outrageous heavy metal song by The Osmonds (yes, The Osmonds) called Crazy Horses. The performance included Andy dancing about the stage wearing a horse head mask (and almost tripping over the foldback speakers).
And last year? A very amusing tale of his loathing of the Eurythmics, and especially Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This, that culminated in one of the biggest singalongs you’re likely to get at a writers’ festival.
Andy has not only been a ground-breaking performer for us, he has also been a wise counsel over the years.
And he loves talking music with the band. Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Deep Purple, Beastie Boys, Buzzcocks, Butthole Surfers, Ministry, Black Flag, Larry “Wild Man” Fischer, The Fall, Daniel Johnston, Nick Cave…
Thank you Andy.