Ealing Literary Festival (literally in Acton)

Toby Young, Will Self and Local Writing Group

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Will Self in Acton

Will Self

Toby Young in Acton

Toby Young


Ealing Literary Festival in Acton

Contact Off the Page: offthepagelondon@gmail.com or visit www.meetup.com/Off-the-Page-writing-group


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The Ealing Literary Festival this year was held mainly in Acton over this past week. In fact, am I missing something or could it be re-named as the events seem to take part during, before and after Acton Carnival?

The Literary Festival made extremely good use of Acton Town Hall which has been much discussed in recent weeks as central to the Council's Acton Regeneration Plan.

On Monday night, Will Self introduced and read from Liver, his latest collection of stories. He skilfully set up the cast and plot for two stories. The first, Foie Humain, was amusing and involved liberal use of the 'c' word and a collection of ageing, drunken actors, journalists and hangers on. Self read with a dry, languid voice which suited his characters well.

The second story, Leberknodel, was about a woman with cancer and what happens when she decides to go to an assisted suicide clinic in Zurich. This was totally engrossing - a vividly detailed and sensitive account with an undercurrent of perceptions about the woman's thoughts and feelings.

Will Self answered a few questions extremely well, without any hint of impatience or stand-offishness and signed books with care. He has been described as 'dour' which he can appear on the small screen, but he seemed reasonably pleased to be amongst his Acton fans and we were impressed with the event which was attended by around 70 people. At the half-time break we all rushed out to buy our (reduced price) copies of the collection as we desperately needed to know what happened to the suicide woman.

We couldn't help noticing that the sound system in the Town Hall was excellent with each and every word clearly audible. We wondered whether it would be possible to use the same sound system for any future meetings - it's always frustrating to have to strain to hear every speaker and questions from the floor.

After Will Self, Ruth Waterman was introducing her book but we were sadly unable to stay for what promised to be a very entertaining introduction to her book When Swan Lake Comes to Sarajevo through photographs, recordings, readings and live music.

On Tuesday night, Toby Young was introducing a screening of the film of his book: How to Lose Friends and Alienate People with a discussion afterwards. We asked him how it had gone. He told us: "I think it was a success. I was very impressed by the quality of the audio-visual equipment supplied by the organisers of the festival -- the audience were able to watch the film on a huge screen with a state- of-the-art sound system to match. I gave a short introduction then, while the film was playing, I rushed back home to put the kids to bed.

"I just made it back in time for the final credits and then answered the audience's questions. As far as I could tell, they enjoyed the film. Either that, or they were too polite to say they hadn't."

Toby was enthusiastic about the screening and discussion: "I thoroughly approve of the Ealing Literary Festival and I hope they invite me back to do something next year. I'm currently producing a dramadoc about Boris Johnson and David Cameron for Channel 4 and it would be great to do something similar with that."

Acton’s Off the Page writing group put together a Script Showcase in the West London Trade Union Club. Kate Buchanan, who organises the group, told me about the event: "It was an evening of rehearsed readings, performed by actors. Five scripts were selected for the Showcase final and they ranged from light comedy to affecting emotional drama. After each script was performed, the audience was invited to write their comments and feedback for the writers. At the end of the night, the audience voted for their favourites.

"The Script Showcase winners were: 1st: Rules of War by Gerard Macdonald; 2nd: Harry and Arthur by Matt Grist; 3rd: Hell! by Warren Malone. Prizes were donated by Questor’s Theatre in Ealing and The Script Factory."

Off the Page writing group meets on the first Monday of every month at West London Trade Union Club. It’s open to anyone interested in writing for performance, such as film scripts and plays. "It was a very successful evening with a good crowd," says Kate. ‘We’re thankful to Questor’s Theatre for donating a prize and hope to work with them in the future through their New Writer’s Forum."

There are still a few events going on this weekend, so check the link above and go if you can.

Clare Gittins


July 17, 2009