Day four is underway at Dartington Hall and we've seen some fantastic talks already in the Great Hall and Barn Theatre.
Friday was lively under bright sunshine: although the festival didn't open until 12, the lawn was dotted with people relaxing in the deck chairs waiting and the office was bustling to say the least! I took a break from the heaving box office to head over to the launch party in the private gardens where wandering minstrels were entertaining Friends and special guests drinking local Sharpham wine. Before long, the queue for Joan Bakewell was snaking round the courtyard - everyone was eager for the 19th Ways with Words to get underway. Michael Dobbs, Roy Hattersley, Michael Bird, Alexander Maitland, Sue Shephard and Martin Amis completed the schedule for Friday. At 6.30, I left with my parents who had emerged, very impressed, from Roy Hattersley's talk for a birthday dinner; that's right, Launch Day was also known in the office as Fi's Birthday!
Saturday brought yet another job for me - stewarding. From my post on the balcony in the Great Hall I herded guests along rows, prevented them from traipsing through the writers' dining room and kept a watchful eye out over the audience whilst listening to the talks - which is an upside to dealing with folks who don't particularly want to "move along".
I was underwhelmed by Giles Coren, and disappointedly so. I love his writing but I'm in two minds about his book. I thought it didn't do him justice, falling into the commercial, turn-you-into-a-celeb-and-show-you-off category; I preferred it when I had to seek out his columns. As much as I enjoyed listening to him - his articulate wit and intelligence still shone through - I thought his talk lacked direction, instead meandering loosely around an image of Giles that has been constructed mainly on the basis of one incident and sculpted as such. As so often happens, but I felt Coren was above this.
PD James with Penelope Lively was a breath of fresh air. Intelligent, insightful and completely in touch with the modern world and open to progression. At almost ninety, this was all the more impressive - and welcome.
Surprisingly, my favourite event was the session on bereavement with Barbara Want and Blake Morrison. It was chaired impeccably by Joan Bakewell, who guided the discussion sensitively and involved the audience as much as possible. What followed was a powerful, moving session that I suspect was very cathartic for many of those who attended.
And so to Monday. I've just been to Soundart Radio studio for a chat with Rob and am about to head off to the Great Hall for a stewarding shift, where I'll get to see Kate Adie and John Lanchester talking about the economy, David James Smith on Mandela and Jackie Kay on identity. Fun stuff!