Sunday, 17 October 2021 Contact us

In the beginning…

The first 60 minutes

As any movie trailer worth its salt will tell you (with gravelly voice): “it’s been a year in the making”. But damn if it hasn’t been worth the wait.

Marking yet another milestone by kicking off its 20th year, the Oxford Literary Festival stormed out of its starting gate this fine April morning (though admittedly it’s even warmer now) with a typically eclectic harvest of Jewell Parker Rhodes discussing her ‘Louisiana Girls’ trilogy, Humphrey Burton celebrating Yehudi Menuhin, David Baddiel introducing his latest children’s book and Lauren Child discussing her inspiration for Charlie and Lola.

Hemming and hawing then between a Titan of music and goddess of picture books, I plumped instead for some local talent, courtesy of Simon Horobin, a professor of English at Oxford University, who attempted to explain ‘How English Became English’. And very succinctly he did it too.

Although, in truth, at first I couldn’t stop thinking - it’s actor Charlie Sheen from tv’s Two and a Half Men (try it: Google Mr Sheen and you’ll have an exact duplicate of Professor Horobin). That aside, what could have been a ferociously dry subject was refreshingly brought to life, using real-life examples of…um… British supermarkets.

In particular Waitrose and its sign “10 items or less/fewer” and Tesco’s “up to 10 items’ notification which triggered much nodding among the clearly pro Waitrose audience.
Trust me, you had to be there to appreciate his lightness of touch, but it WAS entertaining.

And especially so his story about the mother of the British man who had his ‘selfie’ taken with the EgyptAir hijacker this week.

Apparently when the world’s press contacted his mum, instead of first professing her relief at his safe release, she instead seemed more concerned about correcting a frankly trivial point - “The picture is clearly not a selfie as everyone has been describing it,” she apparently said. “He’s in it but not taking it…”

Good then to see that some people still have standards over how newspapers twist and play with language.

Indeed, even Barack Obama came in for a little good-natured ribbing because of his much repeated phrase - ‘the enormity of the task ahead’ - which marked the start of his presidency.

In all, good fun, entertaining and worth the ticket price. And nice to know too that Professor Horobin can always moonlight as a tv lookalike…

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