Monday, October 16, 2006

The Delicious Company Of Joan Bakewell ( without mentioning Frank Muir's famous quote...)

Chester LitFest is still very much ON.
Still to come, amongst others, are George Galloway, George Alagiah, George Monbiot.
And looking at the numbers of folk attending events and listening to their comments, it's been a highly successful Festival. See

We've discovered some fascinating things. Here are some of them.
Whose greatest fear is to be on a train....bookless? Who thinks school reunions console us, because by being there, we know we' ve survived? Who knows the words of countless Carols and sings them lustily? And who saved her Biba boots for her daughter?
Here's a clue: On Friday, Joan Bakewell visited us at The Grosvenor Museum. She's been one of the UK's most respected commentators, presenters and journalists for forty years. She's beguiled us with her intellect, her humour and her natural ease with people. And of course, we've envied her that style, that unquestionable beauty.
YES, we discovered fascinating things about Joan. She's lived in the same house in Primrose Hill for over forty years. She loves Schubert, Dylan and Peggy Lee. She's read " Great Expectations" over and over again. And, she says, she grows wistful at the sight of an Austin 7, chuckles at antimacassars, relishes cream teas and scones...
But on to the basic facts of Joan's history. Folk will particularly remember " Late Night Lineup" when Joan was the first female TV presenter and also " Reports Action" which was a pioneering interactive audience programme. Also memorable are Radio 4's "PM" programme and other series, such as " Heart of the Matter". More recently there was " Belief" and Joan's own series called "My Generation" .
Our evening with Joan was fun and informative, always a great combination; the smiling exiting audience said they'd enjoyed themselves hugely. And I was lucky enough to meet Joan beforehand as I introduced her to the audience; I discovered that she knows Chester, having lived as a child in Stockport, attending Stockport High, before Newnham College, Cambridge, in the era of Michael Frayne, Peter Hall and Jonathan Miller.
Joan's latest book is " The View from here" published earlier this year. It's inspired by her Guardian column " Just 70" ( named tongue-in-cheek after the teen mag " Just 17")
The book is, in many ways, Joan's personal history, interlaced with vivid cultural comments. It discusses such diverse topics as the nature of Faith, what it means to be British, how older people engage with the world, how, indeed, how hard it is, to put eye makeup on, when our eyesight is not what it was. And there's more in the book, too, of those fascinating facts.....
Joan, she says, has a fondness for many of the old ways...including the wearing of aprons. ( You'll have to read the book for more on that...) She prefers swinging in a hammock to too much gardening, she hoards letters in shoeboxes, decorous ones between her parents, along with her own throbbing love letters. And as we all discover (with the arrival of those Museums of Childhood ) Joan has this growing awareness that much of her life is turning up in Museums...
" The view from here" is a treat of a book. It's a positive ( but also gently honest book) about ageing. And it's worthwhile taking a good long view.

The event was sponsored by the Friends of Chester Literature Festival. They're a group of folk who support the Festival in many ways, eg by stewarding, collecting tickets, helping with refreshments and at the Festival Book Swap. They also arrange priority bookings and trips out. Recently they watched Shakespeare at Stratford and "The History Boys" ( Alan Bennett ) at M/Chester's Lowry Theatre. They can be reached on the Festival website as quoted above.


Anonymous Lorna said...

Jan - no idea what HTLM 'tags' are except Geoff found a brass dog tag so posted it to the owner - and yes - had a lovely letter and photo back from Clarrie (a 'Dulux style' sheepdog).
I couldn't help remembering Joan Bakewell walking straight laced faced round a naked man in the TV studio. She used to have a second home in the Duddon valley, few miles from here, but never bumped into her.
Enjoying the read.

4:23 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Thanks Lorna. And what a clever sheep dog! My cats can JUST about take a digital snap but as for writing letters....
Didn't see the naked man programme, but I'm sure she'd have been totally unfazed by him. She's a complete professional as well as a delightful woman.

7:02 pm  

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