WHEN tickets for the Harry Hill Lit Fest appearance went on sale, Wyvern box office staff were stressing to would-be audience members that it wasn’t a stand up show, it was a literary event.
But whether they were keen to hear about his book, Living The Dreem, or still went on the off chance that he’d be telling the odd joke, the sell-out crowd were not disappointed.
The agenda for the hour was mapped out for the audience, which ranged from the tweeny-boppers (or the comedy equivalent) to the silver-haired groupies, to see from when they entered and included 1, Hello, 2, Reading, (as Harry’s agent said “we need to shift some units”) 3, Presentation, and 4, Q&A.
The hello was made up of lots of jokes and broke the ice with the audience, who were all clearly fans and needed no encouragement to laugh out loud.
“No beards,” he shouted at one man sat in the first couple of rows. “I said no beards – if you want to keep your teeth warm wear a scarf like everyone else.”
He also pondered on how God backwards was dog while Jesus backwards was Susej (spell it out phonetically and it’s sausages).
Coming to the second item on his agenda for the night, Harry produced a hardback copy of his book – a diary of the year he had last year, including pretty much every meal.
Picking a date at random (May 15) Harry revealed he had fillet mignon with cabbage and potatoes Parissiene.
“And I know that’s the first thing you’re all going to check when you get the book. It was really fish fingers and chips,” he said.
The surreal entry for February 6 included details of a phone call with Delia Smith about French sausage rolls (croissants stuffed with sausages) Biccy Burgers (burgers between two rich tea biscuits) and how his dog has a job at the airport….in Dixons.
I think it’s safe to say most of Harry’s entries have more than their fair share of poetic licence.
After the presentation is was time to move on to audience participation – the question and answer portion of the show.
Questions included what is his favourite book (The Holy Bible), does he have any plans to tour (none at the moment), why did he decide to become a comedian (he used to be a doctor and noticed none of his patients were getting better so thought he should quit while he was ahead) and which comedians had inspired him (a range from The Two Ronnies and Morecombe and Wise through to Spike Milligan and Monty Python).
But was it the best event of the entire Lit Fest? There’s only one way to find out……FIIIIIGGGHHHT!!!!
STORIES FROM SOUTH AMERICA
THE spotlight was on festival organiser Matt Holland when he took to the stage to tell the audience about his passion for Paraguay.
He was speaking about his childhood in the country, as well as trips back with his children, which were the inspiration for his book Paraguay200.
“South America has something, this stuff that gets into you and lasts a lifetime. Paraguay has stayed with me,” Matt told the lunchtime audience.
“Paraguay is like Swindon in that it is the butt of jokes and, like Swindon, it is absolutely fine.”
Matt spoke about his childhood riding horses, as well as return trips years later, when he bought a piece of land for ‘half the price of a Vauxhall Astra’ to save it from hotel developers.
The South American theme continued when Michael Jacobs spoke about the experiences behind his book, Andes, for the second half of the lunchtime session.
The travel writer gave descriptions of his travels across the mountain range.
“A travel book is not an account of what I did on my holidays,” he said.
“I believe in telling the truth. There are travel writers who invent things. At the same time you have to extract from your travels what I like to think of as the essence of a country.”
The theme of travel through South America ran through all of the events held at the Arts Centre yesterday.
John Hemming, who has been on numerous research expeditions through the Amazon, spoke about the indigenous tribes who populate the area.
John Gimlette gave an illustrated talk on the wild coast of South America. He charted its history from slavery to the religious cult whose 900 members committed suicide.
WHAT'S ON TODAY
A WIDE range of subjects will be broached today as the Swindon Festival of Literature edges into its second week.
Kicking off the day at 11am will be local author Neil Griffiths in the North Swindon Library, who will be giving an hour of interactive storytelling for young and old alike. This event is free.
The lunchtime slot at the Arts Centre will be filled by Stephen Wynn talking about his book Two Sons In A Warzone, a personal story about what happened when his two sons joined the Army.
The talk starts at 12.30pm.
Patrick Holden will be taking over the 7.30pm slot at Lower Shaw Farm with a talk on the future of food. It’s presented in association with the Swindon Climate Action Network and covers the future of maintaining healthy food supplies.
Back at the Arts Centre, authors David Constantine and Stuart Evers will be presenting a workshop on the agony, art and joy of writing short stories. This event begins at 6.30pm.
The pair will then turn judges for the Swindon Speakers’ short story competition, which begins at the Art Centre at 8pm.
Local speakers will try their luck with short stories they have written in a bid to be crowned the winner.