Not content with having the ultra posh Henley Royal Regatta to publicise it’s exclusivity, four years ago these Thames side, townsfolk, started a literary festival as well. It is on from the 28 September to 2 October at a number of venues in and around the town, as well as on a craft called the Hibernia Poetry Boat. Clearly, a shameless ploy to associate themselves with the Regatta. However they don’t yet seem to have become part of the social season that the regatta enjoys. Maybe if they applied the rigorous dress code adopted by the regatta they might be a bit more successful. But I suppose trying to impose discipline onto poetry types is near impossible. Maybe that explains the dire state of British poetry, no discipline. When was the last time you read a decent poem apart from Elton John song lyrics?
Now literary festivals are a bit of a popular activity for us Nifties. It’s because we have a unique talent that binds us together. We can read, and mostly without moving our lips or running a finger along the line of type we are tackling. We also revere, no, worship is a better word, people made famous for their abilities and not for guessing some numbers, choosing red or black or vomiting on television when attempting to eat an wet, unborn, Sand Piper chick.
Now the whole point of going to these festivals is to be a literary groupie, just as passionate as any Lady Gaga fan. The task, to see and hear, in the flesh, the literary, media and political giants of our age, who have recently written a book and are desperate to promote it. Other ambitions are to call a star, for that is what they are, by their first name and get them to respond to your manic delivery. ‘Oh Melvyn, loved the last, In Our Time, Newsletter. That Peter Pormann, Star Trek eh, who’d have thought it? I think he heard me don’t you Len? That raised eyebrow said it all for me. Wait until I tell Sophie.’
Although there is growing competition amongst festival goers to ask the cleverest question. ‘Yes, Hilary, would you say that Cromwell was essentially a prototypical new Tory or did he just want a road named after him?’ I myself favour the opposite approach. Ask the jaw dropper.
Friday, September 23. Alan Tichmarsh, Haunting History. Henley Rugby Club 6.30. £8. Yes £8 for an hour of the nations favorite dibber’s rantings.
Question. Thank you Alan, have you ever thought about coming out? Just catch that group sharp intake of breath. Suddenly it’s worth £8.
Wednesday, September 28. Rachel Johnson. Editor of The Lady magazine. Tea With The Lady. Bix Manor. 4pm. £10 including tea and scones at 3.30
Question. What editorial stance does The Lady take on the news about Alan Tichmarsh?
Wednesday September 28 Felix Francis. Bred for Success. The son of the late Dick. La Parisien. £5 including a glass of wine.
Question. Did your Dad ever take a tumble for money? If so did you have a bet on it?
Thursday September 29. Vince Hill. A Life in Tune. La Parisian 12.30 £6.
Question. When you were on Workers Playtime did you have many groupies?
Thursday September 29. Sarah Brown. Inside Number Ten. Kenton Theatre 7.30pm £9
Question. Is Gordon the raving, bullying, psycho that Alistair Darling says he is, or is Darling a liar?
Friday, September 30. Esther Freud. Acting Up. Phyllis Court. 11.30am £7
Question. Have you ever made a Freudian slip?
Friday September 30. Alistair Darling. The Crash. Kenton Theatre. 7.30. £9
Question. Depends on whether or not Sarah Brown called him a liar.
For tickets and other enquiries visit the Henley Literary Festival website.