Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Silent moment = holy moment

Hello everyone and welcome to Tuesday's installment of festival news. This is brought to you in a rare moment of stillness in the box office and I'm slowly coming down from the adrenalin high of trying to fit as many people as possible into the Great Hall for Melvyn Bragg. [Ha, scrap that, I wrote that sentence about 45 minutes ago and haven't touched the keyboard since!]

Melvyn's talk was the most full I've seen so far. Generally people were very happy to squish together and make room - apart from one very difficult woman who refused to move along. Far from backing down, I got caught on a bit of a power trip and was determined to fit someone in next to her if it was the last thing I did! Having the support of audience members around her was encouraging and equally satisfying was a woman who came in to congratulate me on how I dealt with "that b****"! Hectic, but the kind of challenging fun that I like.

Time for a small round-up of talks that I've been to since the last update. Kate Adie, John Lanchester and James Long provided a hugely interesting talk about the banking crisis, it's causes and consequences. All three were knowledgeable, thought-provoking and sharp, with Kate Adie posing the sort of insightful and penetrating questions that took her to the top of journalism.

David James Smith spoke without notes for a good three quarters of an hour about his experiences researching and writing his book about the young Mandela. He dared to rub some of the polish off the great man's image, revealing a man whose passion and commitment to his ideals caused much discord and strife throughout his family life. Focusing more on Mandela's wives, children and grandchildren, this was an intriguing and fascinating talk, reminding us that everyone has shadows in their past.

The afternoon session finished with Jackie Kay reading extracts from her new book, Red Dust Road and taking questions from the audience. I can't remember the time I laughed so much. From her voice impersonations to relating how she fielded questions about her sex life from her just-met Nigerian birth father, she was warm, engaging, funny and open whilst discussing issues of identity and upbringing.

Today has been notable for another reason - the rain arrived and the vibe is a lot quieter outside than previous days. More notably, it has stopped for now - which is important when one is cycling home as yours truly is later on! Other than that, the box office continues. Kate's mum has supplied us with delicious chocolate fairy cakes which we are all enjoying very much, the bookings keep coming and bits of paper continue to fly everywhere. For now, peace has once again descended and I can feel a wave of fatigue starting to lap at the edges of my being. The next event is in forty minutes and the guests will be along soon enough to shake me back to life.

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