- Chris Mullin on the art of political leadership:
- An entertaining speaker without a new book to sell and without any particular axe to grind, on a subject that allowed him to ramble on about anything he felt like. Given that topic and his history, you might have hoped he would have something to say about Tony Blair: and up to a point he did, but without showing any sign of recognising quite how toxic Blair's reputation has become. Equally, given that topic and this time, the audience hoped he would have something to say about Jeremy Corbyn, and he didn't, until asked, when he said, with absolute propriety, that Jeremy was a saintly bloke, that he wished him well, and that we would have to wait and see.
- Living Landscapes with Sean O'Brien and Laura Harrington:
- A poet and a visual artist, each talking about a new piece of work on which they have been working in collaboration, but not with each other. Both focus on the landscape of the North Pennines, Laura Harrington working on a small area of upland peat, and working with scientists and sound recorders to make a film: after hearing her talk about it, I wished I had been able to organise myself to one of the showings, but it couldn't be done. Sean O'Brien and composer Agustín Fernández's Notes from Underground is a response to WH Auden's poems about the North Pennines, and - something I hadn't appreciated until Gerry explained it afterwards - Sean wasn't permitted to read from it until after tonight's performance of the completed work. So the whole event gave me a feeling of people treading carefully around absences: but Sean read some Auden, which was a very acceptable substitute.
- Stevie Ronnie, Arctica
- According to the programme notes, it was Durham Book Festival who funded Stevie Ronnie's trip to the Arctic two years ago. I've been waiting to hear what he would write about the trip since I saw his photographs of the trip; this was a performance piece in which Stevie spoke his poems in front of projected images. I suppose the sad truth is that I wanted to hear more about the Arctic and less about Stevie, but that isn't his fault.
- Inside Durham Crown Court
- I see now that this is billed as a briefing for aspiring crime writers, which is as good a reason as any to include it in a book festival; I'd been thinking of it as a belated contribution to the Heritage Open Days, a chance to see inside a building which isn't open to the public. I took my new camera, but had to surrender it at the entrance (I suspect, for no better reason than that you aren't allowed to take pictures in court - but there's a picture here, and it hasn't changed much, apart from the addition of glass screens.
I took pictures of the outside of the court, but they aren't very exciting. Here's a tree, instead: