Sunday, 7 March 2010

The joy of reading

On Friday I felt just as I did as a child on Christmas Eve - full of excitement and anticipation. Ten days of fun and surprises was about to start. A thesaurus of writers was about to take Keswick by storm at the Literary Festival at Theatre by the Lake. Undeterred by the sudden appearance of road works and traffic lights in the town they are all turning up at this annual event. With the first signs of spring after the worst winter anyone can remember, Keswick is being dug up - again. Essential repairs to the Greta Bridge damaged by flood along with extra flood defences are understandable but to decide simultaneously to re-do the pavements in the Main Street with non-essential ornamental sets with the work spanning Easter and Bank Holidays is lunatic. We still have 12 bridges down and our roads are splattered with potholes the size of bomb craters but pretty pavements have taken priority.
We are nevertheless still smiling bemusedly. We are a tolerant lot up here.
Literary Festivals are springing up everywhere these days but this one is special. This is its 9th year and we have the GLC as our chairmen (Greatest living Cumbrian!) Lord Bragg of Wigton.
He spoke this morning about the South Bank Show and its demise - another mad decision by beaurocrats. He described some of the interviews he had done in some detail; Terrence Rattigan in NYC with his asthmatic dog on his lap, Harold Pinter giving terse answers amid long silences like his plays and Pavarotti and his parents in the square of his home town in Italy when his father stood up and sang.
This in contrast to Fay Weldon yesterday talking about her latest novel. Someone recently described LitFests as 'A fun fair for the middle classes' and I'm inclined to agree. I like fun fairs though.
i seem to have picked up the art sessions to chair so have been madly reading the 'set' books for weeks. Tomorrow is an old friend Christopher Andreae talking about Winifred Nicholson then Francis Spalding on her new book about John and Myfanwy Piper.
I'm just putting my talk together for Friday on Hercules and the Farmer's Wife which gives a private view behind the scenes of an art gallery.
I spoke last year about the illustrated letters Percy Kelly sent to his stepdaughter when she was sent away to school after she'd run away from home after her mother went to live with Percy. The shock to all of them came when they realised he was transvestite and began striding the streets of St Davids in strange frocks! Not easy for three teenagers - or their mother. Kim is now in Australia and her younger brother in LA.
At the end of the talk I asked for questions and a young woman stood up and declared herself to be the other stepdaughter whom I'd never met. My eye ran along the row in the semi darkness to see her father, step mother and several friends. Quite a surprise. It all ended well and they enjoyed the talk but this time I will maybe begin by asking anyone related to anyone I might be referring to to declare themselves at the beginning!
You never know who's out there!