Time to return to the WI Hall for two more lectures before the festival would end for another year. Ink in the Blood presented by former newspaper editor Barry Williams and introduced by Nottingham Evening Post Features Editor, Jeremy Lewis was an interesting experience to say the least. Mr. Williams, a very accomplished man and former editor of three large local newspapers for many years including the afore-mentioned Nottingham edition was in Lowdham to talk about his recently written autobiography and seemed to have attracted many of his former work colleagues from the local newspaper to see him. I was struck by this at once as one of the old hacks sat next to me with a loud, self-important and booming voice appeared to believe I was a piece of furniture to be leaned on. Perhaps there had been a few gin and tonics over lunch I mused as I pulled my chair away from his weight. It must actually be a common ignorance that some old journalists have as another of his blue-blazered ‘chums’ appeared to consider my shoulder as a convenient leaning post before I physically took his arm and removed it to his surprise.
The old pal’s act tended to override some of the talk which was a pity. It seemed as though the staff and ex-staff of the Post imagined that we would find their old in-jokes and camaraderie interesting. Sorry gents but not so. Mr. Williams talked of his era at the local newspaper and some of the big stories of the day such as the 1980s’ coal miners strike and the technological revolution that was affecting the press at that time and managed to express fairly subjective opinions on both. An interesting moment was when he talked of ex-Forest football manager Brian Clough and a story of a reception for disabled athletes at Nottingham County Hall. I felt that some of this story was slightly ill-expressed as he talked of a ‘horribly disabled’ boy entering the reception and of people ignoring him in his wheelchair. The ‘poor creature’ as he termed him was apparently then marched upon by Brian Clough who picked the child up and kissed him. Placing the boy in a prominent place in front of all and then announced to the gathered throng that the young boy was ‘a superstar’. I’m fortunate enough to have worked with special needs children, some with quite severe needs, and can understand and forgive the innocent and well-meant though ill-judged remarks by Mr. Williams. Obviously his thoughts were heartfelt however as this showed with the great amount of emotion he displayed whilst telling the tale which was touching. Mr. Williams did however find a memorable list of adjectives to describe the ‘master manager’ when he referred to him as rude, callous, foul-mouthed, kind, warm and caring! On another note the anecdote offered was not one of Brian Clough’s finest moments I fear. It is simply wrong to make a spectacle of the disabled – for whatever reason. Let’s be kind and say he did what he did for the best reasons…
Barry Williams continued through some interesting tales of former England hero and Post columnist, Tommy Lawton, his sad fall from grace and rise again through to some insightful words about old-style local newspaper owners and the future of such editions. His story would be one worth telling certainly.
My final event of the day was entitled The Lost Railways of Nottinghamshire presented by author Geoffrey Kingscott in a refreshing a breezy style. Geoffrey immediately claimed himself not to be a railway enthusiast particularly and this made the local history subject more interesting as it talked of the many railway companies in competition of past times and the old routes and stations, now overgrown, built on and ignored by the public. The talk was barely underway when there was a tremendous crash and broken glass everywhere in the small hall. A six-hit by one of the village cricketers in the nearby park had found it’s way through a window into the lecture with only the drawn curtains stopping shards of glass spraying the audience! In a comic-book sequence a cricketer bedecked in white flannels then entered the room to apologise to all before asking if he could have his ball back! Geoffrey Kingscott now has another anecdote to add to his pleasant and fascinating talks in the future.
So the Lowdham Book Festival came to an end for another year. Plaudits should go to the efforts made in producing the ninth festival. It was time for a couple of pints at The Ship before heading home. A final thought about this ever-expanding and popular Nottinghamshire event is the way in which it ends. By 5pm on the final Saturday all the events are concluded and books being loaded into vans etc. It all ends so very suddenly and feels some of an anti-climax for that. The annual festival normally includes a musical event or two and I feel this would be an appropriate way for Lowdham to end it’s festivities – with a party to celebrate on the Saturday night. How about it organisers?