Andy Cope: Spy Dog Roller Coaster, Monday 2nd July, 6 – 7:30pm, Waterstone’s Deansgate.
Words and Photographs by Joanne Carrington
It is a grey and rainy evening in Manchester. However, myself and about 30 other children and parents are dry and warm on the top floor of Waterstones, eagerly awaiting the start of the Andy Cope: Spy Dog Roller Coaster Event.
Wandering around the room and graciously accepting the adoration of her eager fans is (a rather muddy) Lara the dog, affectionately described as: ‘The cutest dog in the world’ by one young girl. Lara is the star and inspiration behind Andy Cope’s ‘Spy Dog’ series, in which Lara is a highly trained special agent dog working for the government.
We are introduced to Lara and how she inspired Andy Cope to write his first Spy Dog book after asking ‘what if?’, when watching James Bond with Lara by his side. Cope catches the attention of his audience with humorous anecdotes about Lara and an adorable slideshow of photos of her as a puppy (she is now 11, nearly 77 in dog years!), which promoted a chorus of ‘awwwwww’ from the audience. He encourages the children to think of what their own pets could be if we asked ‘what if?’, and soon everyone is talking about Marvin the girl guinea pig. Could she be a spy guinea pig? No one knows what pets do when we aren’t watching!
From the start of the event Andy Cope quickly engages and entertains the audience with games such as ‘Say The Colour Not The Word’ (Blue, Red, Yellow…), which is definitely not as easy as it seems! He then asks us to vote whether Lara is ugly, beautiful, cute or unusual? As you can imagine, the vote was almost unanimous on Lara being cute and my hand was definitely the first to go up. The room erupts into giggles as he tells funny anecdotes about ‘boring Melanie’ from school, and how no one wants to become the boring one! His message throughout is clear; make the right choices to be interesting, brilliant and determined and everyone will get the right things out of life. Reading is fun and much more rewarding than watching television all day.
After questions from the audience about how long it takes to write the Spy Dog books, which varies from two weeks to almost a year, it is time for the children to write their own stories. There is a rush to the back of the room for everyone to get pens and paper and then the room is silent. Everyone is busy writing away (and Lara is happily napping on her back, legs in the air, in the middle of the room).
The under 10s are asked to write a short story featuring a gorilla and the older children have to write a story with the line: ‘Oh my goodness Mrs Jones, your toenails are melting!’ Ten minutes (and lots of creativity) later, the stories are done. The results being an array of imaginative short stories from a clearly inspired and captivated group of children featuring characters such as Captain Underpants and Marshmallow the gorilla, to huge explosions capable of melting toenails. Even a Gorilla in tights! You can’t get much more varied than that.
Overall, Andy and Lara have engaged and entertained the audience, promoting the idea of the ‘sausage machine of life’—we have to put good things in to life to get good things out. His talk was certainly inspirational (especially to a recent graduate) and I am happy to say the children all seemed suitably inspired as they left with arms piled of signed Spy Dog books, ready to go home to perform random acts of kindness that Cope has encouraged.
Meanwhile, Lara has woken up just in time to appreciate some more affection from her adoring fans (and I am definitely one of them).
Joanne has just graduated from MMU with a degree in English with Social History