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You could have knocked me down with a feather…

Julian Clary

Julian Clary and Jeremy Smith... but not just a fantastic venue - a fantastic speaker too.
In a million, billion years I would never have suspected Julian Clary - of all people - would make such a naturally gifted children’s entertainer. But trust me, he does.
From the moment he took to the stage with illustrator David Roberts for their new book ‘The Bolds to the Rescue’ the audience was in stitches.
Irrepressible giggles, hearty laughs, cheerful chuckles, howls, screams, snickers and then even more giggling.
After two minutes, and I don’t think Mr Clary had even settled himself comfortably, the audience were hooked.
Indeed, it actually reminded me how actor and comedian Kenneth Williams, who no-one, least of all the great man himself, would have considered a natural fit for young audiences, actually relaunched his entire career after just one appearance on BBC’s Jackanory.
Likewise Mr Clary could be teetering on the edge of a similar rebirth, such was his immediate and joyously warm reception today.
I know I said ‘4-Billion Years of Life on Earth’ was my favourite event so far (and that was what, three hours ago at Blackwell’s Hall?) but I can be fickle, and especially so when confronted with an absolute truth.
Which is this… Mr Clary’s performance this afternoon will prove, I’m sure, to be one of the highlights of this year’s whole festival.
Yet surprisingly the Sheldonian wasn’t packed, but as humorist David Baddiel admitted yesterday at his event, also staged at the Sheldonian and also similarly light on people, it was a fact he was getting used to as people still thought of him first and foremost as an adult, or grown-up entertainer than the successful author of children’s books.
And that of course is entirely understandable, but had I not myself seen Mr Clary connect so brilliantly with his young audience just a few, short minutes ago, I too would have wondered as to the suitability of the mix.
In short, he managed to live up brilliantly to his rather charming moniker - one, incidentally, I hadn’t heard before - of being not so much a national treasure as a national ‘trinket’.
The event itself was brilliantly staged with illustrator David Roberts drawing his hyena creations ‘live’ (the Bolds of course are a family of hyenas who relocate to Teddington) while Julian read excerpts from his book.
Top-notch 24-carat gold.
And frankly I could sit through it all over again.

FT Weekend Title partner University of Oxford HSBC Bodleian Libraries Festival cultural partner Worcester College Worcester College: Festival college partner Oxford Martin School Festival ideas partner BBC World Service International radio partner BBC Four Television Broadcast media partner British Academy HM Government of Gibraltar Festival green room sponsor Gibunco Group Sponsor of Gibraltar Lecture Galileo Foundation Italian Cultural Institute Blackwell’s Festival on-site and online bookseller Ian and Carol Sellars Lady Hatch Emily Rose and James Marrow George Warren Bear Ram Elk Festival Digital Strategy & Web Design Marshall Maserati Festival courtesy cars The Macdonald Randolph Hotel The festival hotel Eynsham Hall Said Business School Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies New College Lincoln College Lincoln College St Cross College St Cross College Corpus Christi College The Queen’s College The Queen's College St John’s College St John's College Jesus College Hertford College Exeter College Exeter College St Hilda’s College Keble College Keble College Oxford University Press Princeton University Press Oxford Brookes University Oxford Cultural Collective K T Bruce Photography K T Bruce Photography Ashmolean Museum Floris of London University of Oxford Alumni Office Alumni Office The Oxford Times Regional media partner BBC Radio Oxford Local radio partner Macdonald Bear Hotel Conference Oxford Critchleys Liaison Financial Services The Litmus Partnership British Humanist Association The Sheldonian Theatre Felicity Bryan Associates The Royal Society of Literature Oxford University Museum of Natural History The Story Museum Oxford City Council City Audio Visual OX magazine

FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival 2018 partners & sponsors

FT Weekend Title partner University of Oxford HSBC Bodleian Libraries Festival cultural partner Worcester College Worcester College: Festival college partner Oxford Martin School Festival ideas partner BBC World Service International radio partner BBC Four Television Broadcast media partner British Academy HM Government of Gibraltar Festival green room sponsor Gibunco Group Sponsor of Gibraltar Lecture Galileo Foundation Italian Cultural Institute Blackwell’s Festival on-site and online bookseller Ian and Carol Sellars Lady Hatch Emily Rose and James Marrow George Warren Bear Ram Elk Festival Digital Strategy & Web Design Marshall Maserati Festival courtesy cars The Macdonald Randolph Hotel The festival hotel Eynsham Hall Said Business School Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies New College Lincoln College Lincoln College St Cross College St Cross College Corpus Christi College The Queen’s College The Queen's College St John’s College St John's College Jesus College Hertford College Exeter College Exeter College St Hilda’s College Keble College Keble College Oxford University Press Princeton University Press Oxford Brookes University Oxford Cultural Collective K T Bruce Photography K T Bruce Photography Ashmolean Museum Floris of London University of Oxford Alumni Office Alumni Office The Oxford Times Regional media partner BBC Radio Oxford Local radio partner Macdonald Bear Hotel Conference Oxford Critchleys Liaison Financial Services The Litmus Partnership British Humanist Association The Sheldonian Theatre Felicity Bryan Associates The Royal Society of Literature Oxford University Museum of Natural History The Story Museum Oxford City Council City Audio Visual OX magazine