Festival event leaves bestselling Cherub author dreaming of going on 'slaughter a whining lefty' spree
The bestselling children's writer Robert Muchamore has written an extraordinary diatribe in which he says that "trivial" concerns about closing libraries and slashed arts budgets make him want to go on a "slaughter a whining lefty" spree.
Author of the Cherub series, which has sold more than three million copies, Muchamore made his comments publicly on Facebook. They followed an event he attended at the South Bank launching the Imagine festival, at which the authors Michael Rosen, Francesca Simon and Patrick Ness made speeches.
"Michael Rosen gave a speech about how libraries are closing and 'Gove' is ruining education, and blah, blah whatever. Then Francesca Simon gave a speech about how libraries are closing and publishers don't give authors a chance anymore. Then Patrick Ness gave a speech about … TBH I can't remember but it was the same shit," wrote Muchamore. "Finally the festival director gave a speech about how in one of the most deprived areas of the country they've had their budget for a 'poetry space' cut by 'Boris'."
He laid into the speeches for three reasons. "First off, this was supposed to be a party not a collective whinge. Second, why do leftwing people seem incapable of using a person's full name? Thirdly, these critical, earth shattering, problems they were all rambling on about actually seemed trivial to the point of me not really giving a damn," he wrote. "We live in an age when 50% of kids go to university, books cost less to buy than the return bus fare for two people to go to the library and whenever I leave the UK, everyone raves about our amazing history of kids' books and kids' writers. By the end I was so angry I wished I'd brought a big samurai sword so that I could have gone on a 'slaughter a whining lefty' spree."
Muchamore went on to say that he was not anti-library, rather "anti bombast", adding that if he were a local councillor facing a choice between a library, meals on wheels or mental health provision, libraries would come third.
"People talk about Gove and education, but when I visit schools … I see class sizes far smaller than when I was at school, creative use of technology such as iPads and teaching assistants who are able to devote time to the least able kids. These are fantastic advances," he wrote in answer to a wave of attacks from readers and fellow authors which followed his rant. "There is no crisis, education isn't being killed by the monster Gove. And you can disagree all you like, but it's the bombast that pisses me off. Malaria and Aids are crises. The civil war in Syria is a crisis. The system used to teach reading in schools and cutting library opening hours are minor short-term issues, and in the long term they will be resolved as our economy gets richer and we learn from our mistakes."
His attack prompted a host of retaliations online. Alan Gibbons, a passionate libraries campaigner, said that "defending the library service from the predations of ideologically-motivated public schoolboys who had immensely privileged childhoods isn't 'whining', it is the pursuit of passionately held beliefs".
And fellow author Jeff Norton wrote that Muchamore was "adding fuel to the engine that's bulldozing the school and library infrastructure that helps to make Great Britain great", saying that "I do wish that if Robert Muchamore isn't interested in supporting and saving the schools and libraries infrastructure that have contributed to his financial success, and the individual social mobility of a generation of children, that he'd just stay home, shut up, and write more books".
But Muchamore said today that "if you want a protest to work, you can't simply bang the drum and demand more resources, because all you're doing is joining a vast queue of other people demanding more resources in other areas".
"It was sad that three clever creative people stood up and moaned, without proposing a single economically viable solution," he said of the Southbank speeches. "The challenge is to find cheap and intelligent ways to get great books and learning resources into the hands of every child, and I didn't hear a single word about how to do that."