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Book Festival Season [Oct. 8th, 2017|08:50 pm]

Durham Book Festival began this weekend, and runs through next weekend, when we will be elsewhere. So our festival going has been restricted to three events.
  • Yesterday evening we heard John O'Farrell talking about his new book, Things Can Only Get Worse, and other topics, including his first book Things Can Only Get Better (which sounded more interesting) and his previous career in writing for such comedy programmes as Spitting Image. He was very funny, as I'd have expected if I hadn't been so ignorant about his past life, but I'd only come across him as a columnist. So I laughed a lot, spent an enjoyable hour, and wasn't at all tempted to buy the book.

  • This morning was Bob Beagrie's Leásungspell, a journey from Hartlepool to Whitby in the year 657 CE, a narrative poem in "a heteroglossic hybrid" (it says here) of Old English and other things, mysterious but never quite unintelligible, a performance piece for poet and musicians, with a soundtrack which mysteriously managed not to reference the Lyke Wake Dirge... This time I did buy the book, though I may not achieve the recommended strategy of reading it while listening to the recorded performance.

Lunch break: and it seems I was wrong to assume that the strange floral tribute to Saint Cuthbert had been removed:

Trio of crosses

Lunch was salads and paninis (and good coffee and lime-and-coconut cake) at Cafédral on the corner of Owengate: our timetable meant that we were ridiculously early, which is probably the only way to avoid the crowds here: it was getting very busy as we left. We'd brought the Guardian Saturday crossword, but something seems to have gone wrong, as we'd solved most of it by the time lunch was over.

  • This afternoon's session 'Labour in the North' was billed as "This fascinating event will explore the origins of Labour’s dominance in County Durham, what sustained it and the current state of play. It will also look at how Labour built a local social democracy that improved conditions for working class people and ensured their support for generations." It did nothing of the sort. John Tomaney had been commissioned by New Writing North to write something about Labour history for the event: he had chosen to write about Peter Lee (the essay he wrote is supposed to be on the website, but I can't find it; presumably a fuller version of this one). Rachel Reeves is a Leeds MP who has written a biography of Alice Bacon, one of the first women MPs (selected for an 'unwinnable' seat and then elected in Labour's 1945 landslide). There were interesting conversations to be had around either of these figures, but despite the efforts of moderator Michael Chaplin, they didn't really illuminate each other. I'd have been happy to listen to Rachel Reeves talking about all the Labour women she interviewed in her research.

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