You could have knocked me down with a feather…
... 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.
FOR YOUNGSTERS (AND THE CHILD IN ALL OF US) - CHAPTER TWO - MARCH 14 - 4.30PM - 2020
FOR YOUNGSTERS (AND THE CHILD IN ALL OF US) - MARCH 13 - 12.26PM - 2020
ACCESSIBLY CHILLED, ACCESSIBLY PRACTICAL - MARCH 8 - 7.59PM - 2020
THE TWO ‘A’S OF A GREAT FESTIVAL - MARCH 7 - 2.19PM - 2020
CHAPTER ONE… MARCH 1 - 7.10PM - 2020
BRILLIANTLY BEWILDERING - APRIL 7 - 4.59PM - 2019
WELL, WE CERTAINLY WEREN’T SHORT-CHANGED - APRIL 6 - 9.05pm - 2019