Blog – Inside the Green Room by Ellen Prockter

Monday, September 25th, 2017

What exactly is a Green Room? Chambers defines it as: ‘n. in a theatre, a room for actors to relax or entertain guests in, etc’. If we substitute authors for actors, that is a reasonable definition of the Marlborough LitFest Green Room. But why Green? Lost in history apparently, although one theory is that it was originally painted green, a colour considered restful for performers.

My involvement with the Green Room came when it was located in a corner of in the Castle and Ball. Not an ideal location, it was some distance from all the venues, and it was not always possible for a member of the committee to be there to meet and greet the authors and, sometimes, their entourage. I lived close by and had already volunteered for the whole weekend so I was asked to help out. Initially I felt quite nervous about meeting famous authors – many of whom I had admired for years. But, I told myself that this was not about me. My job was to welcome the guest and to make sure that all their immediate needs were met – food, drink and directions to the nearest loo – and then to step back after assuring them that I was there if needed. Some people like to chat, others like to find a quiet space and go through their notes. With most authors it is a combination of the two.

Lionel Shriver, 2016 Golding Speaker in the Green Room. Credits: Ben Phillips Photography

The Green Room is now in a grander location – the Council Chamber of Marlborough Town Hall – and we are now a team of three volunteers. When the new Town Hall was opened in 1902 the local paper described this room as ‘a spacious, light and well-proportioned room 27½ feet in length, 18 feet in width and 15 feet in height’. Described on the town’s website as an ‘intimate panelled room’ it is not exactly a cosy venue, with portraits of past mayors lining the walls, but our guests seem to like it. We are lucky to have access to the room the day before the festival starts. Furniture is rearranged, tablecloths cover the green baize, pots of freshly picked flowers sit between bowls of fruit and naughtier snacks and we provide a good selection of sandwiches. Last year Mini Cheddars were a big hit and were even mentioned on Twitter! All drinking tastes are catered for although most speakers choose to wait until after their event before they have a glass of wine. Builders tea and water are the most popular choices.We like to think that we will go the extra mile for our visitors – whether it is running down the High Street to buy full fat milk for a Golding Speaker’s tea or listening to a moving piece a poet had written on the train coming here.

Obviously we are the souls of discretion but I must admit that it is fun hearing authors, who maybe have never met before, discussing subjects as diverse as Palestine, whether bed sheets should be changed between guests and cultural appropriation.

Ellen Prockter