Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Snapshots of Voewood Festival 2011

Breaking my journey through Norfolk to stand outside the house that my beautiful clever Hannah lived in in Norwich and finding myself crying uncontrollably at the still raw irreplaceable loss her death has left, remembering the moments, conversations, life and love we shared within those walls.

Singing ‘da diddly qua quas’ stage side with Glen Matlock as Adam Ant gave a beautiful stripped down rendition of Stand and Deliver.

Watching Glen Matlock rock out performing ‘Anarchy in the UK’ to a delighted Voewood literary audience and then turning to see John Hurt, gently dancing to it.

Standing in for Misha Glenny and interviewing former M.I.6 Chief Sir John Scarlett, who gave generous, exact answers and revealed his keen sense of custodianship of his department.

Hearing Beth Orton perform a superb set and realising that Hannah sang with the same fractured cadence and wondering if Hannah had been a fan of Beth’s, a question I’ll never now be able to ask.

Hearing Beth’s partner, the hugely talented Sam Amidor, harmonise vocals and guitar to the open mouthed admiration of those who were watching as he sang us through some superb American folk.

Listening to Glen Duncan perform some of his excellent novel ‘The Last Werewolf’ to music by Steven Coates and Geraldine McEwan and realising I was witnessing the birth of the Were-opera.

Watching D.B.C. Pierre deliver the most cogent, lucid and generous masterclass on how to structure a novel to 50 plus people, all of whom were furiously scribbling his pearls into their Moleskine notebooks.

Discovering the best pork pies in the world at the Samphireshop food tent. No really, they are simply, sublimely out of this world, especially the onion marmalade versions

Arriving at Voewood to be warmly greeted by owner Simon Finch who, understanding that the last time I had been at his home had been the time that Hannah and I first met, took me by the hand to the bedroom we had been in, where the story of she and I had started. Bless you for that Simon.

Helping Clare Conville pick up cigarette butts in the garden with the wonderful Kirsty Lang, a true star who was collecting horrible dog ends with all the tenacity of a journalist on the trail of a hot story.

Feeling sorry for David Gilmour as he told me that he had just put 15 litres of petrol…. in his diesel car.

Meeting on Saturday an extraordinary, beautiful couple, Roz and Tom and spending so much of the weekend, when able, in their company, feeling some sort of natural resonance, an instant connection, only to find on the last night, after the last event, that Tom and I had met before... he being a friend of Hannah and one of the few that she had told our plans to. Karma? Maybe. An extraordinary moment in a life? Certainly. Unforgettable.

Doing some serious bunting with Gavin Turk and his wife Deborah Curtis, son Caesar and the inimitable, wonderful Jane Simpson. Pimp my ride? Nah. Bunt my tent.

Watching Clare Conville manage to pull off gracious hostessing duties while at the same time dealing with three crises, two guests wanting stuff and all the while casting her eye around making sure that the authors, musician and guests gathered on the terrace had full wine glasses.

Meeting Emily and Kate Austen (great-grandaughters of, since you ask) who ran the kitchen and catering with quiet grace and efficiency and enjoying being mercilessly teased by Emily all weekend for being controlling and bossy.

Listening in rapt concentration to Damon Murray of Fuel as he described the story behind "Russian Criminal Tattoos Encyclopeadia - Vol 1," a brilliant tome with such an extraordinary, heartrending and fascinating story behind it... get yourselves a copy while they're still available.

Not finding Rowan Pelling’s grey cardigan evidently picked up by someone in error. It’s fitted, charcoal grey and she wants it back should you find it in your bag by mistake – she has yours in the meantime!

Diana Athill. I need say no more, surely.

Observing talented, admirable and admired authors, poets, musicians and artists mucking in with plate clearing, bin emptying and all the domestic chores that one might think they would have people to do for them. Life affirming reality and authenticity.

Watching lean purposeful Richard Long walking around the grounds of Voewood and bending to smell the occasional flower.

The Peter Pan of Brit Art and all round delight, Colin Self, picking me a sprig of lemon verbena for my buttonhole.

Seeing Salena "Sex Goddess" Godden performing her poem “I’m Gonna Move to Hastings” and wanting to laugh - and weep - at the bleak humour of it.

Getting to know Damien Barr and David Whitehouse as they lay in a bed together discussing David's brilliant new book “Bed”, Damian sporting excellent striped p-js, David looking suitable authorial.

Loving Kirsty Lang's quiet pride in husband Misha Glenny's 'Dark Market" being the best-selling book of the festival.

Discovering the rare talent that is David McAlmont and hearing his beautiful song "Ode to Gene."

And more, so much more.

Truly a lit/mus fest that passes the litmus test with flying colours