Thursday, 05 August 2021

Behind the covers..

ARTIST Ralph Steadman was unable to attend the festival in person but made up for it

ARTIST Ralph Steadman was unable to attend the festival in person but made up for it during a Skype link to the Kenton by doing a drawing while he talked. He then offered it up for auction in aid of the BirdLife charity and it was sold for £2,000.

AUTHOR Matthew Engel was delighted to discover he was talking during a trip on the Hobbs of Henley boat

He was even more thrilled that during the hour-long trip the boat passed the Tri-point where the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire meet. It was a sort of homecoming for Engel, who was educated at the now-defunct Carmel College, near Wallingford.

NOVELIST Vaseem Khan was walking through Henley with his wife when she was impressed to discover that the Old Bell pub in Bell Street is older than her home city of Mumbai. For the record, Mumbai (or Bombay as it was then) was first settled in 1507 while the pub was established in 1325 and is the oldest surviving building in Henley. Few of Mumbai’s 12.5 million inhabitants would manage to cram into the pub!

THE Kenton Theatre played host to five well-known actors during the week. They were the irrepressible Brian Blessed, Virginia McKenna, star of

Born Free
, Pam St Clement, who spent more than 20 years playing Pat Butcher in

and Patricia Hodge and Eleanor Bron, who took part in the tribute to

Reggie Perrin
writer David Nobbs, who died earlier this year. Hodge starred in two of his sitcoms. The tribute evening was a success and everyone was touched to see Nobbs’s widow Susan in the audience.

FLEET Street legend Robin Esser, who talked about his autobiography, was interviewed by veteran TV chat show host Michael Parkinson. The pair have an enduring friendship that goes back to their National Service days in the Fifties. Sir Michael was commissioned during his two years and became Britain’s youngest army captain.

“WHISPERING” Bob Harris was delighted to find fellow DJ Mike Read sitting in the courtyard of Hotel du Vin when he arrived for his talk. They are old mates and worked together in their early days at Radio 210 in Reading. There was another trip back in time for Bob when the first questioner at his show turned out to be an old neighbour from his childhood days in Northampton.

THERE was one new venue this year — Fawley Court. The festival was offered the chance to stage an event in the Church of St Anne on the wonderful riverside estate that has been lovingly restored by Aida Hersham. Appropriately enough, given the setting, the subject of the talk was Downton Abbey and it featured Jessica Fellowes, niece of the series’ creator Julian.

AFTER his talk on Labradors, Ben Fogle spent the rest of the day in Henley with his family — minus the dog.

THE most unusual call of the week was made to Henley Cricket Club’s Zac Jones, asking him to appear at the festival in his whites complete with bat, pads and gloves. This was for a talk by Scyld Berry, The Telegraph’s cricket correspondent, at the town hall. He was talking about his book, Cricket — The Game of Life, and requested a batsman to act as model. Zac duly obliged and said later: “It was certainly unusual but I throughly enjoyed it.”

TERRY WAITE enjoyed himself so much that he asked to be invited back. “It is a lovely festival in a lovely town,” he said. When told that all he had to do was write a new book, he immediately replied: “I have got one, a mix of narrative and poetry. Can I come back?” See you next year, Terry.

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