Perhaps it was the relatively early hour or maybe the relentless drizzle that has set in at Hay, which kept people in their beds. The Barclays Wealth Pavillion was only about half full for the writer who famously as a comedian was the first with Rob Newman, to sell out at Wembley.
Nevertheless a pack of press photographers dashed to the front of the stage and drew Baddiel’s fire “are you going to be here the whole time it’s fucking distracting”.
He was here principally to talk about his new novel ‘The Death of Eli Gold’. Eli is the survivor of a suicide pact with his fourth wife (it’s on the flyleaf so I’m not spoiling here). Another of the central charachters is Eli’s 44 year old son, Harvey. Aaronovitch is quite disparaging about Harvey; Baddiel reveals that many people on Twitter have said that Harvey is much like the the author, an observation with which he clearly does not entirely disagree. The book, from which the author reads, is compassionate, complex, awkward and amusing.
Baddiel is intelligent and funny (and so is Aaronovitch) and this was a highly entertaining session. The missing half of the audience unquestionably missed out.
A veil was drawn over an epic literary feud at the Hay Festival. Paul Theroux and VS Naipaul ceased hostilities with a handshake in the green room.
The rapprochement was brokered by Ian McEwan who encouraged Theroux to offer his hand to his erstwhile mentor and friend . “I miss you,” said Theroux. Naipaul replied “I miss you too”.
“We’ve finally spoken,” said Paul Theroux who had already expressed his enjoyment of the festival to a packed Hay audience. “I’ve had an experience today with a capital E.” VS Naipaul, who also enjoyed a capacity audience told visitors “It was very nice to see him and I’m pleased things have worked out the way they have.”
The conversation began with an acknowledgement of the decline, at least electorally, of centre left politics in the developed world. Alongside this Miliband argued that the balance of power globally is profoundly shifting.
Closer to home there was a clear acceptance that Labour’s performance at the 2010 election was exceptionally poor. When quizzed on his role now in Labour’s recovery he said “I have to observe the first oath not to get in the way. I have to look forward as well as back.” That said his future ambitions were perhaps exposed when he said it was right not to be in the shadow cabinet “at the moment”.
Brilliantly diplomatic with incisive questions from host and audience (not least about his allegiances to both Arsenal and Sunderland), he often cited the ‘do no harm’ principle before responding. Throughout he was careful and considered but this may be his weakness. Miliband is perhaps too accomplished a politician and his passion often gives way to pragmatism.
David Miliband in conversation with Matthew d’Ancona
So the origin of the suits was a desire for respectability. Two lower class country boys dressing like artists that your mother would feel comfortable with. “It didn’t quite turn out like that”.
“We want to be weird and normal at the same time. We don’t just want to be weird…that would be normal.”
The artists talked about their love of Spitalfields and East London and their amazement at how it has become such a focus for the creative arts over the years. It used to be home to more tramps than artists; meths drinkers who were both “friendly and dangerous”.
Recently they have stolen nearly 4000 newspaper posters. Gilbert goes into the newspaper to buy a mars bar an George lifts the poster with a harrowing headline. We were treated to a recital giving a verbal clue as to the artworks that will emerge from these thefts.
Conservative anarchists and outsiders they’ve played a central role in changing the art world whilst choosing to behave so badly that they were never invited to be part or its establishment.