TOM RYAN is used to booking star names for the Henley Literary Festival but found himself
TOM RYAN is used to booking star names for the Henley Literary Festival but found himself centre stage during last week’s event.
Tom, the festival’s programming director, was forced to step in for an impromptu interview with the Archbishop of York John Sentamu after the original interviewer Daniel Hahn had to pull out due to illness.
And he did so well that the Â archbishop’s comments made the front page of a national newspaper the next day.
Tom said he believed the event would be “pretty safe” as Dr Sentamu gives hundreds of talks every year but was surprised shortly after the archbishop took to the stage at the Kenton Theatre for the sold-out event.
“He got here five minutes before and went straight to the toilet, so we only had minutes before he was on stage,” he said. “My understanding was that he was going to do the talk on his own so I introduced him and walked off stage. Then there was a pause and he said, ‘where’s Tom gone?’”
Realising he was going to have to ask the questions, Tom sat down and found he had about 10 minutes to prepare for the interview while Dr Sentamu, the second most senior cleric in the Church of England, gave 10-minute explanation of his latest book, Agape Love Stories.
Tom said: “He gives great, fascinating and, luckily, quite long answers so I only had to ask him four or five questions.
“Having a nice, warm crowd made it easier. He and the audience could have gone on all morning and in a way the hardest bit was wrapping the event up.”
The Daily Mail’s splash story the next day was based on the archbishop’s comments about the Calais “jungle” and saying that other European countries should take more asylum seekers.
Tom said: “He’s very compassionate but feels other countries should be doing more.”
He added: “For the last four years the festival has made the front page of a national newspaper but I’ve never been so involved!
“Journalists know there’s always interesting things said at Henley and it’s worth their time coming.”