Cheltenham Lit Fest 2013: The Coalition, Margaret Thatcher, and the 2004 Tsunami

The Cheltenham Literature Festival is taking place this week in the center of Cheltenham, and I’ve got tickets to quite a few events…

This year, former Labour minister Alan Johnson is a guest director of the festival, and a few political figures have appeared/will be appearing this week.

On Saturday I saw ‘The Coalition: An Insider’s Guide‘, in which Andreas Adonis (who was the Transport Secretary in Gordon Brown’s government and Education Minister in the 2005 cabinet), along with journalists Matthew d’Ancona and Philip Collins reflected on the last few years of the coalition government. Very interesting discussion, and chaired by the BBC’s Nick Higham. Both Adonis and d’Ancona have books out relating to the coalition and the negotiations which took place before the coalition formed.

The second event I saw on Saturday was Charles Moore talking about Margaret Thatcher (Moore being her official biographer) – the first part of the biography has recently been published. Chaired brilliantly by Radio 4 presenter James Naughtie, I found some of the stories he had to tell very interesting (some of them funny) and enjoyed hearing what he had to say.

Last night I was back at the Lit Fest, this time to see a Times Eyewitness event – Catherine Philip of the Times was talking about the time she spent in Sri Lanka immediately after the 2004 tsunami. Her descriptions of what she found when she got there were very interesting – how only a narrow band of land near the coast was affected, go a few miles inland and you wouldn’t know that there had been a tsunami. I’ve got some cuttings of the stories she wrote for the paper while she was out there.

I’m looking forward to more Lit Fest events over the next few days. Tomorrow, Kate Adie and former British Ambassador to the US, Christopher Meyer will be talking about their careers.

On Friday there’ll be a debate on the EU, with Nigel Farage, The Times’ Berlin Correspondent David Charter, Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood, The Times’ columnist Oliver Kamm – chaired by the BBC’s Home Editor, Mark Easton. That should be interesting.

And finallly on Saturday I’ll be seeing two events – Conservative MP David Davis, Labour MP Alan Johnson and journalist Polly Toynbee will be appearing at the festival to talk about ‘how can we create a fairer, more open society’ – and that’ll be chaired by the BBC’s Daily Politics presenter Andrew Neil. I’ll also be seeing Nick Robinson, the BBC’s Political Editor, who will be talking about his new book Live From Downing Street. That’s the one I’m particularly looking forward to, he’s one of my favorite BBC reporters.

If only I didn’t have lectures to worry about and had an endless supply of money… If I was able to, I’d probably go to every event possible!

FH.

Fred Hart

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