Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for November 9th, 2011

An Evening with Julian Fellowes

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 9th November, 2011

Since its foundation 18 years ago, the Friends of Heath Library has organised 150 literary events in the 1930s single storey building that houses the library, right next door to glorious Keats’ House in Hampstead. The very first speaker was the novelist Margaret Drabble, whereas this evening, after the Friends’ AGM, its 150th visitor was the writer, actor, producer and Conservative life peer, Julian Fellowes. Invited to talk ‘for a few minutes’ about himself, he gave a wonderfully discursive and joyfully prolonged presentation of his life and works, nicely balancing the grandeur of success with a healthy dose of self-deprecation. Although he has won most of his plaudits (including an Oscar) for his writing for cinema and television, he is clearly still a thespian at heart: marvellous timing and cadence and lots of good jokes. He is of course currently flavour of the month (maybe even of the year), having built on the great success of the film Gosford Park with the even more successful TV series, Downton Abbey, for which he chose Highclere as the setting. He had some lovely tales of working with Robert Altman on the former and with Maggie Smith in the latter. He is also a great supporter of public libraries, including on his own home patch in Dorset. The Heath Library is one that the philistine Labour Council in Camden is closing, but the Friends — together with the City of London Corporation, who own the freehold on the property — hope to be able to put a package together which will mean that a privately-run library (employing both professional staff and volunteers) will keep the library functioning; but the City, in particular, will foster literary and other artistic events, including maybe creatng a small, secure exhibition space, in which they could, for example, have on display rare letters from John Keats, which are too vakuable to show at the less easily protected Keat’s House.


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Paddy Ashdown Is Frightened

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 9th November, 2011

The London Liberal Democrats’ fundraising dinner at the National Liberal Club this evening of course featured Brian Paddick and Caroline Pidgeon (hot-foot from the Evening Standard’s 1000 most influential Londoners awards), who both spoke of the importance of next year’s London elections. But the keynote speaker was former party leader Paddy Ashdown — now apparently carving out a career for himself as the sane alternative to David Starkey as a TV presenter — who instead focussed on the state of the world. After a well-rehearsed joke about George Brown in Peru, Paddy gave us a pretty bleak overview of short-term prospects. He said he was ‘frightened, very frightened’ by the way that the stakes are being raised in the West’s standoff with Iran. If Israel launches a pre-emptive strike against supposed nuclear weapons installations in Iran, the situation could become very dangerous, he said. On this I felt he was being quite mild; I fear it would bring about Armageddon — for the Israelis. Intriguingly, Paddy was barracked, if not exactly heckled, by one member present about the LibDems’ failure to engage with the people protesting outside St Paul`s (Occupy LSX). Brian Paddick popped up and said he had been to speak to them, but whereas he sympathised with what they were protesting about (corporate greed and bankers’ mismanagement and overpayment), he could not detect a clear message from the protestors about any solution. Perhaps that is the job of the Liberal Democrats, though it will not be easy from within the Coalition government.


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