Monday, 20 September 2021

Former labour spin doctor drafted in for power trip

EX-LABOUR spin doctor Damian McBride is to appear at the Henley Literary Festival next week. He will replace broadcaster and

EX-LABOUR spin doctor Damian McBride is to appear at the Henley Literary Festival next week. He will replace broadcaster and author Melvyn Bragg who has had to postpone his event because he is reading a eulogy at the funeral of a friend.

McBride will be talking about his book Power Trip which is about his time advising former Prime Minister Gordon Brown between 1999 and 2009. He will be interviewed by former MP, Iain Dale.

His memoirs have not gone down well with the party faithful and he has been criticised for having it serialised during the Labour party conference in Brighton this week.

Sue Ryan, director of the festival, says McBride was the perfect speaker to step in and fill the void left by Bragg.

She said: “We thought about who could fill that slot at this late stage and fill the Kenton Theatre and he is someone who is very much in the news.

“Everybody wants him at the moment and there are people who are curious about what happened in Government during the time he was there.”

McBride will appear at the theatre in New Street next Sunday, October 6 at 11am and tickets will cost £9 each.

Those people who had expected to see Bragg can now see him at the Kenton on October 29 at 7.45pm. Anyone who cannot make the rescheduled event will be refunded.

Meanwhile, ticket sales for the seventh annual festival have been the strongest yet with 42 of the 100 events being sold out so far.

Four of the top five headliners are women with Stella Rimington, Kate Adie, Ann Widdicombe and Deborah Moggach alongside Max Hastings all sold out.

Mrs Ryan said: “We have had our strongest year ever for ticket sales but there are still a lot of events that have not yet sold out although normally we do expect to just turn up and buy tickets on the day. We have sold 13,000 tickets already — one thousand more tickets than last year.

“I think that is down to not always going for safe options of speakers, we have been bold in some cases, in going for some who people might not have heard of.”

Other talks, interviews and readings include Peter Snow, Floella Benjamin and Emma Freud while Anne Robinson, The Weakest Link host, was chosen by former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore to be his interviewer when he talks about the first volume of his biography of Margaret Thatcher.

The Kenton Theatre will host more than 30 talks including Barry Norman, Philippa Langley and Roy Hattersley as well as schools events.

Other venues this year include the town hall, Henley library, the Christ Church Centre, the Red Lion Hotel, Bix Manor and the Quince Tree in Stonor.

The River Readings again take place aboard the Hibernia and children’s events will be held at the d:two centre in Market Place and the River and Rowing Musuem.

The festival runs from September 30 to October 6. For more information and tickets, call 0118 972 4700 or visit

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