Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘U3A’

Singing for One’s Supper

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 8th May, 2017

JF speaking at Newham HustingsThis afternoon I spoke to Kingston U3A about my Life as a Foreign Correspondent — undoubtedly the most popular of all the talks that I have been giving since I joined the lecture circuit a decade or so ago. Most writers and many broadcasters sing for their supper in that way, whether for women’s clubs, Rotary Clubs and other professional bodies and U3A — the University of the Third Age, which has hundreds of thousands of members in Britain (the Kingston branch has well over a thousand). So whereas many people, not least the young, get their information and entertainment online or through their mobile phones or other post-modern platforms, others still want to hear stories from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. And it is all about stories. Whether I’m giving a talk directly related to one of my books (such as on Oscar Wilde) or instead recounting my journalistic exploits round the world from the Vietnam War onward, or aspects of modern history and current affairs, such as the so-called Arab Spring, I paint a picture in words, exactly as I do when I am writing a script for Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent. Well-delivered, the spoken word can convey so much, without the need for visual illustration.

Sometimes people ask me, “Why do you do it?”, in other words, give talks, which I do mainly in London and the Home Counties, though for several years I lectured on cruise ships as well. “Surely it takes away valuable time from your writing?” Well, yes, up to a point that is true, though writing is a very solitary occupation and it’s good to have a speaking engagement lined up that means I actually do have to shave, get fully dressed and go out into the world and converse with real live people. Besides, these days writers of books, in particular, are urged by their publishers to go out and promote the product, not just at literary festivals, but in other fora, as well as keeping up a visible presence online and on social media. Finally, yes, the money does help. Unless one is fortunate enough to pen a blockbuster, writers’ income from their craft has fallen sharply in recent years. A recent survey by the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), on whose Board I sit, discovered through a survey that the average income of writers in the UK is £11,000 a year. That means many are having to survive on much less. So speaking fees (usually calculated on a per capita basis on the size of the expected audience, can make all the difference, even when the group (and therefore the fee) is modest. But I mustn’t grumble. I am one of those writers and broadcasters who actually enjoys giving talks, unlike some of my colleagues who loathe it. So my advice to fellow scribes is: don’t knock it. Be brave! Go with it!


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Canterbury Tales

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 14th May, 2008

I spent much of today in Canterbury, balmy under the strong spring sun. In the afternoon, after an al fresco pasta lunch, I spoke to the local University of the Third Age (U3A), on my life as a foreign corespondent — the highs and lows of roaming the world, from the Vietnam War to my latest trip to Brazil. The U3A audiences (if ‘audience’ is the right word, in this case) are always among the best and the most responsive of all the groups I talk to, heavy with retired teachers of one kind and another, and inevitably with a few people in the room who lived and worked in the places I’ve reported from.

Later I moved to the Friends Meeting House, to lead a discussion on War and Peace. Not only were several local LibDem councillors and activists gathered, but also pro-Europeans from both the Labour and Conservative parties, so there was a warm reception to my argument that a more co-ordinated European Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) would mean that Europe could use its weight and experience to promote both peace and development in areas of conflict around the world. In the meeting house room was one LibDem Councillor, Brian Staley, whom I first met in Saigon in 1969; the eminent psephologist Michael Steed whom I’d met in Manchester a year before that; and Maureen Tomison, whom I had known as a keen Conservative European activist before she left the party because of its Europhobia — and suddenly found herself the Labour candidate fighting Michael Howard in Folkestone at the last general election. As the old cliché goes, it’s a small world!


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