Friday, 3 February 2017

And so we beat on…

So, many terrible things are happening and they're happening so fast that I can't keep up. I'm living in two time zones: my own, and Donald Trump's, waiting to hear of his latest assaults on reality and decency. The Black History Month speech in which he boasted about himself, listed a few black people he clearly knew nothing about, and relegated them to the status of forerunners to the true black heroes: Trump donors. The National Prayer Breakfast, at which he assembled lots of religious people before mocking their raison d'être by 'praying' for Arnold Schwarzenegger's ratings. The call to the Mexican President which included a threat to invade that country ('banter'). The angry call to the Australian PM, a natural ally in reactionary bigotry, which was terminated half-way through because Trump was 'tired' (according to the White House) or a boor (everybody else). The ceaseless stream of executive orders making life hard for the weak and very, very easy for the powerful. His spokesman's invention of the Bowling Green Massacre to defend the Muslim Ban was today's low point.

And that's to say nothing of the Brexit Lemming Dash. But I have nothing to add that cleverer people haven't already said. So instead, here are some pictures from the Literature Festival I helped organise last weekend. We had nearly 80 events over a long weekend, most of them free. Some were over-subscribed, some were quiet, but none were failures. We were spread over multiple venues: churches, galleries, a farm, theatres, the university and many more. The plan was an active festival: some headliners that people could sit and listen to, but most were participatory, and seemed to attract people who wouldn't go to Edinburgh or Cheltenham festivals. It was hard work but I was stunned by the enthusiasm of those who volunteered to put on events, and of those who came to them. The budget was tiny – about £2000 plus what came in from ticket sales – but we managed. We're definitely putting it on again, and we intend to be even more ambitious. I did the Q bit of a Q and A with novelists Catherine O'Flynn and James Hannah, introduced Sathnam Sanghera, looked after wordl-famous-in-Tipton Doreen and generally floated around opening doors, pointing to places and providing coffees.

From 'The Quiet Compere'

Miles Hunt, ex-Wonder Stuff

Donald? Is it really you?

Could be a scene from any of my lectures


A Doreen fan

A presenter's view of the Sathnam Sanghera crowd…including his mum

Sathnam Sanghera and Paul McDonald

Sathnam Sanghera

MPs Paul McFadden and Emma Reynolds
Paul McDonald

My favourite sight of the weekend

Arts and Crafts lectern, Bantock House.

A special mention for the lady at Doreen who asked me what I was studying while I ushered her group in. I'm nearly 42 and course leader of English, but for a moment I almost believed I looked young, fresh and innocent enough to be a student.

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