THE LIT FEST DIARY: An eclectic mix of interesting characters

First published in Columns Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Features Editor. Call me on 01865 425435

Truth be known, I felt like a pimp. Yes, it IS true that in last Thursday’s Mail, author and Countryfile favourite Julia Bradbury did admit: “All those male viewers who watch me in my Gore-tex. What are they thinking?”.

But truth be told, I’d wager they’re not dwelling much on the new Pope or Chinese President, Xi Jinping.

How do I know this? Because earlier in the week and before attending her talk on Wainwright’s Walks yesterday afternoon, I was approached.

One, a friend and avid autograph collector, asked innocently if I could get her signature; the other, a relative stranger, was more ambiguous.

“Look, I can’t get her autograph,” I explained. “That would look tacky. But... I could sell you some pictures?”

I was speaking tongue in cheek so I was surprised when, rather coyly, he actually replied: “Okay, how much?”.

But that’s the joy of the Oxford Literary Festival. Like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.

For instance, having just arrived on Saturday, I overheard one speaker welcomed thus: “So you’re not in your willy costume today?”

Which is why attending can be like witnessing one of those bizarre Channel 5 documentaries. It was appropriate then that my very first event was humanist and academic A.C.Grayling’s talk ‘The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and for Humanism’.

It was held in Christ Church Hall and was packed. I was surprised. This was no fanatical zealot but someone you’d bid for at Friendly Neighbour auction.

Intriguingly, next up was the absolutely brilliant debate ‘Where Will We Be in 2050?’ Held at Corpus Christi, it was probably this March’s most unmissable event.

Three speakers – Dan Smith, Ian Goldin and David Goodheart – all with a keen interest in our forseeable future, presented their views on the world to come.

David Goodhart was the boo-hiss villain (and delightfully so) while Ian Goldin was charming, charismatic and maybe a tad too goody two shoes.

So to finish the weekend, and end it on a high too, I attended you-know-who’s talk. And yes, she was good.

Admittedly, it felt more like a PowerPoint presentation of the ‘Best of Bradbury’ than a genuine literary event, but her personality performed a deft sleight-of-hand to at least make it feel spontaneous and natural.

And Gore-tex or no Gore-tex, she made for a perfect Sunday lunch hors d’oeuvre.

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