Sunday, 8 March 2009

That's all, folks

Right. Sunday done. Nine days of Festival fun been and gone in a flash. So what was the best bit? Who's the best person to ask? If you're looking for a bit of insider knowledge, who you gonna call?

You could start by leafing through somebody's diary for starters. Or, ask Frances Wilson, author of The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth, who has done the leafing for us.

Ms Wilson doesn't think Dorothy Wordsworth and her brother William had an incestuous relationship. In conversation with Christopher Cook this morning, she asserts that although their relationship was peculiar it was never sexual. Hm. Peculiar is the word though, folks. Their mother died when Dorothy was six and William seven and immediately Dorothy was separated from her brothers to live with an aunty. Wilson attributes Dorothy's separation and subsequent return to the bosom of her family as the catalyst that drew her closer to her brother.

The story has death, love, jealousy, grief, all set against the backdrop of the Lakes. This is romanticism of the highest order. All of the characters come across as melodramatic, prissy fops except William's eventual wife Mary who somehow manages to deal with Dorothy's clawing presence in their small Cumbrian home. With Coleridge included, this lot practically had a scheduled timetable for melodramatic headaches.

Dorothy herself has a 'sensibility' - a hyper-sensitivity to colour - that Wilson attributes to migraines but that inform much of WIlliam's poetry. Despite purporting to be a lonesome Romantic who 'wandered lonely as a cloud', William was dependent on the people around him for ideas, support and poetic nourishment. Daffodils for example came from an experience shared with Dorothy and lifted from her journal later.

I could go on to tell you how cerebral and astute Richard Mabey is today but that'd just tell you about my last day at the Fest.

Who else could we go to for an insider's view? Who knows everybody's private and personals? The barman, of course. The Highland Park team reveal that they got through 1300 samples of Highland Park last weekend alone. There are 28 samples per bottle. Crikey, Bath. That's pretty good going.

But the final word about the best of the Fest goes to the two people who've seen the most of it. Between them sound engineers Paul Sparrow and Dan Gruner have, after all, seen everything that's been on within the walls of the Guildhall.

After a moment chewing on some tasty-looking shortbread, Paul gives me his highlights. 'Fenton on Blake. Aside from being a poet and a critic and all the rest of it, he's a gardener. He wrote a book called A Garden From A Hundred Packets of Seed which is a good winter read.' Anything else?

'It shows how radical the Bath audience is that Robert Fisk got the biggest round of applause - verging on a standing ovation,' he reveals.

'I also enjoyed Andrea Wulf, being a keen gardener. It was a story I knew nothing about. She was very good.'

Thanks Paul. And Dan? 'In no order - Hugh Lupton and Chris Wood; Battling For the Real England was very disturbing and worrying; Misha Glenny. Those are definitely my top three.'

Fine stuff indeed. I'll see you all next time around - but don't be a stranger! Pop in and see us some time.

Sam 'The Uncommon' Reader

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