Festival Talks and Festival Walks (i)

A number of gentlemen in the audience immediately put their hands to their own ‘flowing locks’

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There are a great many events within festival week: walks and talks making up only a part of what’s on offer.  There are workshops and musical performances and foodie things; there are debates and book signings and group readings.  I was seriously tempted by the harp workshop; I’ve always wanted to play the harp.  And there were so many interesting talks and writing workshops too, but my confidence wouldn’t allow me to dive right in.  For this year it was enough to just pick out one or two ‘safe’ things and test the water.  As it happened, nothing was intimidating and everything we sampled was low-key and friendly.  Next time I shall know what to expect.

This year we took two guided walks together plus a talk, and I attended a further talk on my own.  I had a couple more talks up my sleeve for later in the week but didn’t book them straight away – again wanting to see how we reacted.  By the end of the week B was all festivalled out and I decided against making the additional bookings.  This was perhaps a mistake in hindsight; perhaps I should have gone ahead myself anyway.  After all, it’s another year before Fowey opens her literary doors once again.

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(credit: Fowey Festival)

he talk we both attended (on the cold, wet day) was given by Professor A C Grayling, Master of the New College of Humanities.  I skimmed through his intro on the programme and assumed we were talking about New College, Oxford.  I now realise I was wrong: NCH is an independent college offering degrees and tuition in the arts in the manner of American colleges, with students studying a major and minor subject.  Educations systems – our own in particular – are of great interest to me, so knowing more about his background, I’m even more interested in Prof. Grayling.  But I digress…

The talk was entitled: Progress in Troubled Times: The Age of Genius and was about the explosion of thought that occurred in the 17th century.  The good professor was arguing that the greatest ever change in the mental outlook of humanity took place in that period and that we can still learn from it today.  So, quite an intellectual and potentially challenging introduction to our festival experiences.  But he was a good speaker, mixing anecdote with argument, and I was quickly pulled into what he had to tell us.  The book he was publicizing has mixed reviews, but I found his argument fascinating – even more so now that I’ve read up a bit on the man and his background.  Much food for thought.

I rather enjoyed the people watching too: the town hall was full, which meant an audience of about a hundred.  A fair spread of men and women, a range of ages, many seemed to know each other and many were gaily garbed in confident, quirky attire that befitted the literary, arty image that a literary arts festival surely requires!  I suspect though, that this is everyday style for these particular Fowey folks. This sampling of residents, it seems to me, represented a lifestyle.  Fowey is undoubtedly a very costly place to live: property prices for a waterfront view are hugely inflated in comparison with areas such as ours, just a few miles inland. Prof. Grayling made reference to himself at one point, citing ‘philosophers’ and ‘flowing locks’.  A number of gentlemen in the audience immediately put their hands to their own ‘flowing locks’.  Philosopher, artist, bohemian, fisherman… flowing locks abound around here…

(I was intending to combine three of the four events we attended in the one post.  But I’ve rambled, as well as learning how to add captions and insert links.  So I’ll split what became a very long piece into several smaller bites.  Easy enough to skip over if you, like B, become all festivalled out… )

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(Credit: literatureworks.org.uk)

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