Friday, 23 May 2014

Charleston Festival: Part Two

Yesterday, (amid thunder, lightning and a lot of rain) I made the trek back to the festival to hear another talk. This time it was all about the 1950s. Rachel Cooke, the author of Her Brilliant Career spoke about what life was like for a woman in the midcentury. It was interesting to hear about the women she chose to investigate in her book, from architects to film directors, these women had fascinating lives. Writer Ben Watt also talked about his book 'Romany and Tom' which explores the lives of his parents, a musician and an actress, who struggled to live the lives they wanted in post-war London.

A lot of what I imagine of the fifties comes from the literature and plays I studied at university. I took a course called 'Angry Young Men and Women' which focused on the famous kitchen sink dramas such as 'Look Back in Anger' by John Osbourne and 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning' by Alan Sillitoe. Reading these conjured up images of life in the 1950s as one of poverty, drudgery and a lot of laundry - not a fun time to be a woman. At the time these books and plays trod new ground as they shone a light on the working classes and the realities of everyday life post-war. 

However, this talk showed that for some women, the fifties offered up a life removed from the mundanity of household chores and one of independence and a rebellion from the norm. 

I enjoyed hearing about these differing experiences of the 1950s. Although I'm a bit too young to ever know what it was really like, my grandmother held down a full time job during the 1950s and it's great that these experiences are also being recognised and discussed.

I loved visiting Charleston this May. It's such a beautiful place wander around, soak up some culture and eat a lot of chocolate and almond cake (which was amazing!). Hopefully it will become a bit a of tradition.


Sunday, 18 May 2014

The Charleston Festival 2014 Part 1

Charleston Farmhouse is one of my favourite places to go to in the summer. Not only is it historically the meeting place of the bohemian 'Bloomsbury set' which includes my heroes Virginia Woolf, E.M Forster and T.S. Eliot, it is also beautiful house with a garden that comes to life at this time of year.

2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the Charleston Festival and despite living nearby all my life I've never actually been to the book festival due to school and university exams every May (thanks, education!). So this year I was determined to get tickets. I managed to nab a pair for Ian McEwan in conversation with historian Asa Briggs and another for a talk on the book 'Her Brilliant Career' by author Rachel Cooke.

So, on Friday I went along to the first of these talks. Although I've only read two of Ian McEwan's novels: Atonement and On Chesil Beach I nonetheless consider myself a bit of fan (Atonement is up there as one of my all-time favourites) and made sure to get a signed copy of Sweet Tooth.

McEwan was in conversation with Asa Briggs who is still writing history books well into his nineties. The talk was a great Bloomsbury-style conversation which covered everything from science to psychology, history to politics. I really enjoyed listening to this type of intellectual chat, it was one of those talks where ideas flow from one thing to another a great speed and my brain often found it hard to keep up with it all. I love conversations that link seemingly disparate things together although I think that post-uni I may have lost my skills of concentration! And I never thought I'd say I miss seminars...

Below are some photos from visit number one... stay tuned for Part II and all things fifties!


Thursday, 8 May 2014

Judith Kerr in Conversation

On Sunday I went to a talk at Somerset House which was part of the 'Pick Me Up' graphic art fair. The talk was so special because it was none other than Judith Kerr in conversation, the author and illustrator of wonderful children's books such as 'The Tiger Who Came To Tea' and 'Mog the Cat'. 

I have such admiration for Judith after watching a recent BBC programme about her. At age 90 she has had a long and exciting career and her childhood is particularly interesting. She escaped from Nazi Germany as a young girl to start a new life in England where she began a career in Textiles and  teaching. It was only after having children that she began to write and illustrate the stories that her son and daughter loved best. The rest as they say is history.

What I love so much about Judith's books is the sense of humour and imagination found in her illustrations. And hearing her talk there's no doubt that she has lost none of that sense of joy and passion for what she does. Judith is currently working on a new book 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' and was happy to show the audience a few of the proofs for the book. She also joked about the fact that she is mainly remembered for her first book 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea' which was first published in 1968, despite having written dozens of books since. It's a testament to her talent how well her books have stood the test of time and how well they are received by generations of kids.

I'm really glad I booked this talk and would really recommend to anyone to have a look at the Somerset House website as they are always holding small events of this kind as well as evening talks and screenings. I'm also am keen to get my hands on the recently published 'Creatures' which goes into detail about her life and career. If you're interested in seeing more of her childhood drawings then I'm sure it is well worth a look!

I hope you're having a lovely thursday! Xx