Chris Wadsworth
Percy Kelly - Looking East to the Ennerdale Fells
Writer and Art Consultant

26th February 2015


Chapel Beck careering down to Bass Lake.

There is a diminishing stack of books by the bed. Panic is building. There is a little more than a week  before the opening of the annual festival of words and ideas at Theatre by the Lake in Keswick by which time I should have read them all.

Since my debut on the stage in 2004 to speak about The Painted Letters sent by Percy Kelly to Joan David (and before you all rush, it’s now out of print), I have been co-opted every successive year to give a talk and/ or chair other events – these are usually about art, architecture or fashion though sometimes there’s a random challenge thrown in. This year is no exception

I’m not giving a talk this year but I am looking forward to chairing the controversial Julian Spalding on the role of art and architecture in society’s evolution, Gillian Riley  on  food in art,  Julia Summers on wartime fashion  and  Catherine Anderson on Indian Railways (a passion of her late husband – a photographer - and also of mine).  The wild cards dealt out to me by she who must be obeyed (aka Kay Dunbar of WWW) are Charles Spence on food science (looks a bit Fat Duck to me) and - the wildest of all -  Michael Buerk talking about reality television. He it was who persuaded me to use up (waste?) hours of my life watching a reality television show for the first time (yes it is totally addictive folks) just to find out why a respected news reader, reporter and Moral Maze front man would get involved with I’m a celebrity get me out of here.  Also to see how he coped with being pelted with and eating nasty crawling things, dealing with reptiles, peer pressure and fellow celebrities (including Edwina Currie). This must be my sadistic voyeuristic nature emerging or my insatiable curiosity for knowing why people do strange things (otherwise known as nosiness).

The six talks I’m chairing are just a tiny sample of what will be on offer in Keswick 6th – 15th March.  The theatre will be buzzing with readers, writers, celebrities, philosophers.  Every year without fail I unexpectedly  light upon some astonishing speaker, book, subject in the course of the festival and I always come away full of new ideas and inspiration. I also enjoy meeting up with old friends in the intervals and picking over what we’ve just  heard. Like art, it’s the spaces in between that are also important.

This year‘s programme promises ten days packed full with diverse, challenging and interesting events. (   There is still time to book if you haven’t already.

These are genuinely my words by the water this morning. It must have rained all last night because our stream was in full spate when we woke up. It subsides very fast as it rushes on down to Bassenthwaite Lake as you can see in the photograph taken from The Pink Egg - my writing room in the garden. After a wonderful mild bright winter which wasn’t really winter at all - everything has been thrown at us in the last week – winds, snow, hail, rain, sunshine. On Sunday we struggled over Dunmail Raise in the wake of the snow plough through the first real snow we’ve seen this year. It was short lived though as temperatures rose to 8/9C again. No wonder humans, animals, birds, plants are all confused. It could be a faux summer again for the festival. Hope so.



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