Tuesday, 22 January 2019 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 University of Oxford BBC World Service International radio partner Bodleian Libraries Festival cultural partner Oxford Martin School Festival ideas partner Worcester College Worcester College: Festival college partner Irish Embassy, London Supporters of the Irish programme Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press Massachusetts Institute of Technology 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 Head of Zeus The Macdonald Randolph Hotel The festival hotel Italian Cultural Institute HM Government of Gibraltar Festival green room sponsor Gibunco Group Sponsor of Gibraltar Lecture British Academy BBC Four Television Broadcast media partner Earthwatch Europe Ian and Carol Sellars Emily Rose and James Marrow Jill Dunsmore New College Lincoln College Lincoln College St Cross College St Cross College Jesus College St Hilda’s College St John’s College St John's College The Queen’s College The Queen's College Exeter College Exeter College Hertford College Keble College Keble College Oxford Brookes University The Feathers Hotel Said Business School University of Oxford Mathematical Institute Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies The Oxford Times Regional media partner BBC Radio Oxford Local radio partner Bear Ram Elk Festival Digital Strategy & Web Design The Royal Society of Literature Royal Literary Fund Princeton University Press Felicity Bryan Associates University of Oxford Alumni Office Alumni Office Conference Oxford Oxford University Images Oxford University Images The Sheldonian Theatre Oxford University Press Floris of London Critchleys City Audio Visual Bayard Presse Eynsham Hall Macdonald Bear Hotel Sloane Club Ashmolean Museum British Humanist Association The Story Museum Oxford City Council The Litmus Partnership K T Bruce Photography K T Bruce Photography OX magazine Liaison Financial Services Steer

FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival partners & sponsors

FT Weekend Title partner University of Oxford BBC World Service International radio partner Bodleian Libraries Festival cultural partner Oxford Martin School Festival ideas partner Worcester College Worcester College: Festival college partner Irish Embassy, London Supporters of the Irish programme Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press Massachusetts Institute of Technology 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 Head of Zeus The Macdonald Randolph Hotel The festival hotel Italian Cultural Institute HM Government of Gibraltar Festival green room sponsor Gibunco Group Sponsor of Gibraltar Lecture British Academy BBC Four Television Broadcast media partner Earthwatch Europe Ian and Carol Sellars Emily Rose and James Marrow Jill Dunsmore New College Lincoln College Lincoln College St Cross College St Cross College Jesus College St Hilda’s College St John’s College St John's College The Queen’s College The Queen's College Exeter College Exeter College Hertford College Keble College Keble College Oxford Brookes University The Feathers Hotel Said Business School University of Oxford Mathematical Institute Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies The Oxford Times Regional media partner BBC Radio Oxford Local radio partner Bear Ram Elk Festival Digital Strategy & Web Design The Royal Society of Literature Royal Literary Fund Princeton University Press Felicity Bryan Associates University of Oxford Alumni Office Alumni Office Conference Oxford Oxford University Images Oxford University Images The Sheldonian Theatre Oxford University Press Floris of London Critchleys City Audio Visual Bayard Presse Eynsham Hall Macdonald Bear Hotel Sloane Club Ashmolean Museum British Humanist Association The Story Museum Oxford City Council The Litmus Partnership K T Bruce Photography K T Bruce Photography OX magazine Liaison Financial Services Steer