Sunday, 17 October 2021 Contact us

ALL FIRED UP WITH NOWHERE TO GO - APRIL 2 - 4.09PM - 2019

Peter Hitchens, David Edgar - The Loss of Britain - 12.00 noon

So it’s 11.53am, the lecture theatre at the Oxford Martin School is almost full and, most bizarrely for a literary event, there’s a tension in the air. Whether good or bad it’s hard to quantify but certainly people are expecting…something.
And it’s real: the audience, the Festival volunteers, even the School staff, are all whispering away the exact, same sentiment: that some ‘thing’ might suddenly and fiercely kick off.
Crazily, and clearly infected by this group psychosis surrounding me, I too start inexplicably studying the faces and body language of those still streaming in, looking for some giveaway tic that labels them as potential agitators (which would have been a neat trick too as the audience was almost entirely comprised of the retired, affluent and physically frail, probably unable to launch even an egg or flour attack).
Still, it was an unusual sensation, at a literary festival for goodness sake, to feel a slight…anxiety.
On the other hand, maybe this delirium wasn’t too far-fetched; after all the debate we were there to participate in was between journalist and author Peter Hitchens and playwright David Edgar, both politically polar opposite and both with wives callled Eve… (why do we know this? Because David Edgar mentions it by way of introduction and what-do-you-know, that sly, creeping tension is suddenly punctured by this simple slice of whimsy. Genius).
Hitchens of course, a conservative journalist, writes for the Mail on Sunday after a successful career as a foreign correspondent and author; Edgar has had more than 60 of his plays performed at the National Theatre. So the Ying and Yang of the debate had been clearly engineered.
But lo and behold, after all this release of excess stomach acid among the 100 or so there, it turns into an impeccably polite, “more tea Vicar” discussion that never really reaches temperate, let alone boiling temperatures.
Which is a shame. Hitchens is a terrifically concise, explicit orator, who argued that life today would doubtless be a whole lot better if we just went back to the mores and sensitivities of 1950s Britain.
Edgar, equally as smart, naturally scoffed at this view. And since we in the audience also had a huge investment in this argument, I kept waiting for the discussion to be thrown open to the floor. Which it was but its flames were never fanned.
Instead of being forced to give answers that were short and measured, thus allowing more time for further questions, the two were allowed instead to wallow rather tiresomely in their own intellects.
Frankly, an opportunity missed (though at least no-one had to call ‘Security’).

FT Weekend Title partner BBC World Service International radio partner Oxford Martin School Festival ideas partner Bodleian Libraries Festival cultural partner University of Oxford New College Jewish Book Week Partner of Jewish programme Italian Embassy Supporter of Italian programme Irish Embassy, London Supporters of the Irish programme MIT Press MIT Press. Sponsors of the programme of American literature and culture The Dorchester Hotels Collection Festival London hotel partner Blackwell’s Festival on-site and online bookseller The Randolph Hotel The festival hotel Princeton University Press Prestige publishing partner British Academy Festival academic partner Emily Rose and James Marrow Supporters of the programme of American literature and culture Jill Dunsmore Lady Hatch Patron donor for the programme of Irish literature and culture George Warren Mary and Cecil Quillen Supporters of the programme of American literature and culture Marlene Hauser Worcester College Worcester College Lincoln College Lincoln College St Hilda’s College 12th St Hilda's day at the festival St Cross College St Cross College: Festival college partner. The Feathers Hotel Woodstock festival hotel Critchleys Accountants to the festival Owen Mumford Sponsor of programme on science and medicine HM Government of Gibraltar Festival green room sponsor Felicity Bryan Associates Conference Oxford Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies University of Oxford Alumni Office Alumni Office Said Business School Bear Ram Elk Festival Digital Strategy & Web Design BBC Radio Oxford Local radio partner The Oxford Times Regional media partner Oxford Brookes University Oxford University Images Oxford University Images The Sheldonian Theatre Floris of London City Audio Visual Schoolreaders The Litmus Partnership K T Bruce Photography K T Bruce Photography OX magazine Chamberlain Evans Estate agents Ironbridge Gorge Museums Foodbuy Siren Communications Siren Communications - corporate consultants Chêne Bleu Wines of Provence Frescobaldi Toscana Wines of Tuscany Symington Wines of the Douro Valley Seacourt Printers Festival printers Steer Oxford Botanic Garden Compassion in World Farming The Wild Geese Nicholas Hunter Ltd

FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival sponsors, donors & partners

FT Weekend Title partner BBC World Service International radio partner Oxford Martin School Festival ideas partner Bodleian Libraries Festival cultural partner University of Oxford New College Jewish Book Week Partner of Jewish programme Italian Embassy Supporter of Italian programme Irish Embassy, London Supporters of the Irish programme MIT Press MIT Press. Sponsors of the programme of American literature and culture The Dorchester Hotels Collection Festival London hotel partner Blackwell’s Festival on-site and online bookseller The Randolph Hotel The festival hotel Princeton University Press Prestige publishing partner British Academy Festival academic partner Emily Rose and James Marrow Supporters of the programme of American literature and culture Jill Dunsmore Lady Hatch Patron donor for the programme of Irish literature and culture George Warren Mary and Cecil Quillen Supporters of the programme of American literature and culture Marlene Hauser Worcester College Worcester College Lincoln College Lincoln College St Hilda’s College 12th St Hilda's day at the festival St Cross College St Cross College: Festival college partner. The Feathers Hotel Woodstock festival hotel Critchleys Accountants to the festival Owen Mumford Sponsor of programme on science and medicine HM Government of Gibraltar Festival green room sponsor Felicity Bryan Associates Conference Oxford Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies University of Oxford Alumni Office Alumni Office Said Business School Bear Ram Elk Festival Digital Strategy & Web Design BBC Radio Oxford Local radio partner The Oxford Times Regional media partner Oxford Brookes University Oxford University Images Oxford University Images The Sheldonian Theatre Floris of London City Audio Visual Schoolreaders The Litmus Partnership K T Bruce Photography K T Bruce Photography OX magazine Chamberlain Evans Estate agents Ironbridge Gorge Museums Foodbuy Siren Communications Siren Communications - corporate consultants Chêne Bleu Wines of Provence Frescobaldi Toscana Wines of Tuscany Symington Wines of the Douro Valley Seacourt Printers Festival printers Steer Oxford Botanic Garden Compassion in World Farming The Wild Geese Nicholas Hunter Ltd