Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Bettany Hughes at The Oxford Literary Festival

I had never been to Oxford before, nor a literary festival, but when I saw the line-up for this year's Oxford Literary Festival on the weekend Isobel broke up for Easter, I knew we both had to go.
We arrived on a Friday evening and stayed in the stunning Christ Church College. Our room was in student lodgings in the Meadow Building, comfortable, with a beautiful view of Christ Church Meadow and the Oxford Literary Festival marquee right beneath our window.
We breakfasted in the Great Hall on the Saturday, much to Harry Potter-mad Bel's delight, and fell into conversation with a very avuncular chap. It transpired he was actually conducting the interview with Anne Tyler on the Sunday, more about that later, but Peter Kemp of The Sunday Times was very friendly and told us he hailed originally from Chorley. We had a bit of Northern-type bonding, then it was time to HIT THE FESTIVAL.
The marquee at Christ Church was enormous, Blackwells had stalls upon stalls laden with books, and yes, I did succumb to temptation. There was a couple in vintage garb handing out G and T's, ten o'clock was a little early even for me.
Our first event was an interview with Bettany Hughes, historian, broadcaster and writer of books such as "Helen of Troy" and "The Hemlock Cup". She was interviewed by Nicolette Jones, a fellow graduate of St. Hilda's College ( Hildabeests, as I learnt they were referred to!). Bettany was hugely entertaining, she made the subject of Socrates' life and legacy so utterly absorbing. Isobel was entranced and whispered, "she is a real inspiration". The hour flew by and I loved hearing the bells ringing several times during her talk, it was very evocative. The questions from the audience were intelligent and included a cheeky invite to speak at Cambridge from a man who said it was the best £10 he had ever spent!
We queued up afterwards to get Bel's book signed. A lady in front of us asked Bettany if she was Mediterranean, she replied one of her grandparents was Italian,"JUST LIKE ME" said Bel, who was delighted and her admiration of Ms Hughes was growing by the second. I let her do the talking, she told Bettany she was taking GCSEs in Ancient Greek and Latin soon. Bettany replied her daughter was also doing them, (wow, what revision help she must get!) gave Bel a few tips, then said "you look bright, I'm sure you'll be fine". She signed Bel's book with a phrase that included a Greek word, I asked Bel what it was, "its the Greek for wisdom, mum, we get the name Sophia from it".
So our first ever event at our first ever festival on our first ever visit to Oxford was brilliant. Look out for Bettany Hughes on the television soon with a new series on women and religion through the ages.

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