Ilkley Literature Festival is half way through and with quite a parade of erudite celebrities at the bottom of our road.
Alastair Campbell was entertaining to a point but failed to do much more than puff up his former boss. There was nothing revealing in his talk. The main points – MPs are poor quality because all the decent brains are working for Newsnight, the press can only do one story at a time (in spite of the number or outlets) and the public needs to get off its collective backside when it comes to social and political action. He was amusing in an immature kind of way way.
James May came across a tad more intelligently – he’s one of the presenters of Top Gear who collects his toenail clippings; I liked him. He was quite open about his lack of academic achievement at school but seemed to have a genuine and infectious enthusiasm for the world around him. He, like me, was awestruck by the first moon walks. I remember watching the very first one all night and the tension it created. He says that technology and invention today has been made far too easy by the computer – in his childhood, ideas and inventions were born in a shed not on a PC screen. We need sheds.
Phillip Beadle’s talk took the form of a lesson in English grammar in which he demonstrated his teaching style – he was secondary school teacher of the year, 2005. He says there’s no such thing as a stupid child, just poor teachers. I now have much more confidence in the correct use of prepositions.
Alan Bennett was amazing. I wish younger people would take more of an interest in his work. It was an older audience as you might expect, but only he could get a laugh out of pensioners with the carefully planted word fuck (among other similar). He talked about Uncommon Reader in which he pokes fun at the Queen imagining she becomes a customer of a mobile library.
It’s surprising that he himself did very little spontaneous reading until he was twenty eight, and didn’t settle down to writing in an organised way until he was forty.