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Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Ken, Esther, Stella, and Jon tell some of their secrets in sunny Swindon

‘I fell in love with local government’ Ken Livingstone told a packed lunchtime Arts Centre audience ‘even though they kept telling me, you can’t say that!’

My reply always was, ‘Why not, if it’s true?

And, here in Swindon, he also used what one local government officer called ‘Shakespearean language’. He uttered 7 bloodys, 3 craps, and one pissed off, and got plenty of laughs.

At tea time, Esther Rantzen, in pretty pink, was worried that her underwear might be visible, so asked for a crossed-knees monitor. She then spoke movingly about serious matters of crimes against children but also, on occasions, having the audience in stitches, showed that you do not have to be solemn to be serious.

Stella Rimington, the first author to sell out, weeks ago, was enigmatic, intriguing, intelligent, and enlightening but did not give away a single state secret. When she broke into a smile she lit up the stage but still did not give away any secrets. And yet, she told us plenty and more than hinted at the important work done by the intelligence service in ‘keeping people safe’. But she also sounded a bit like M or Bond when she said, ‘Yes, of course, when you meet people, you size them up.’

For Jon Cannon’s talk on cathedrals, the Christ Church bells rang loud and clear over Swindon and Festival followers filled the pews.

The ducklings are now two days old and thriving, as is the twentieth Swindon Festival of Literature.

Matt Holland
Photo credits: Richard Wintle – Calyx Multimedia