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Pete Atkin >> Gigs >> Clive & the Melbourne Writers' Festival
(Message started by: Kevin Cryan on Today at 21:39)

Title: Clive & the Melbourne Writers' Festival
Post by Kevin Cryan on Today at 21:39
Keynote Address:Clive James opens the festival followed by a late night session with Dave Eggers, Friday August 24th._________________________________________________________________

In today’s issue of the Melbourne-based newspaper The Age (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Age), which, among other things, is chief sponsor of the Melbourne Writers' Festival (http://www.mwf.com.au/2007/content/homeInterim.asp?)  (August 24th – Sept 2nd 2007), which this year Clive opens with a keynote speech, columnist Steve Dow asks, somewhat enviously one imagines, why “does the Sydney’s writers’ festival (http://www.swf.org.au/) draw twice the crowd as Melbourne’s”

The question is not as stylishly framed as it might be. But let that pass.  What’s interesting about this is the answers, qualified though they may be, appear to be very much the same as the answers one gets when one asks why, for instance, one festival in England is more successful than another. The successful festival, it is invariably claimed, has a better location, more sponsorship, can afford to run more free events, is given greater support by the local authority and so on, and so on. There is something very consoling in  finding that we are not they only ones who are repeatedly visiting these vexed questions year after year.

One thing that does impress me, though, is the fact that the Sydney festival  puts on 320 events and attracts a massive 80,000 visitors – that is as many as go to The Guardian Hay Festival (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hay-on-Wye#The_Guardian_Hay_Festival). And no, I have not forgotten that many of the events are free; people don’t go because they are free –they go because they want to find out about writers and writing. Some of those interested in writers and writing might not go if  they weren’t free, but that, I think, is a different argument.  

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive & the Melbourne Writers' Festival
Post by Kevin Cryan on 01.09.07 at 17:17
Clive gave mention to his songwriting partnership with Pete at the Age Melbourne Writers’ Festival, according to the September 1, 2007 edition (http://www.theage.com.au/news/books/poetic-licence-drives-them-wild/2007/08/30/1188067271199.html) of the festival’s sponsoring newspaper The Age (http://www.theage.com.au/).

Poetic licence drives them wild
September 1, 2007

Words of wisdom from the Age Melbourne Writers' Festival. Jane Sullivan reports.

CLIVE JAMES STARTED to write poetry to get girls. "It never worked," he told the Age Melbourne Writers' Festival last weekend. "Still doesn't."

Maybe women don't love James for his poetry alone, but they do love his cheeky cranium and what's inside it, and he knows how to turn us on. How else could you hold a crowd talking about the visible panty line of your boxer shorts? How else could you draw a crowd of more than 500 to see two bald men talking about a poet 100 years after his birth?

These were two of Australia's favourite bald men - Clive James and John Clarke* - both of them lovers of W.H. Auden's poems, and their passion was infectious. James spoke of how the first line of an Auden poem could buttonhole you: "The earth turns over, our side feels the cold. I thought, Jesus, how does he do it?"

Auden probably wrote his love poems to get boys, but young Clive wasn't aware of that, and assumed they were written to women.

He used to recite Lay Your Sleeping Head, My Love and was sure that if he did it successfully, no woman would be able to resist him. But then he was told the poem was actually written to a truck driver.

"I was told that," agreed Clarke, "but then again I was told that by you."

The seductive power of poetry is linked to popular song, and James hoped to charm more girls with his lyrics. What came out of that was a long-running songwriting partnership with Pete Atkin, which you can access through his website www.clivejames.com. (http://www.clivejames.com) (There were relentless festival plugs for that website - and why not, when the name had to be wrested back from a power-ski instructor and a pirate.)

The only problem with writing songs was that public broadcasters couldn't play the ones that mentioned brand names. The BBC wanted James to change the title of the love song Have You Got a Biro I can Borrow? so it referred to a ballpoint.

"My artistic integrity wouldn't let me," he said drily.


*John Clarke (http://www.mrjohnclarke.com/)

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive & the Melbourne Writers' Festival
Post by Kevin Cryan on 02.09.07 at 19:27
According to a more recent edition (http://www.theage.com.au/news/entertainment/strongwriters-festivalstrong-keynote-king-james-stirs-festival-ire/2007/09/02/1188671788983.html) of The Age, Clive's keynote address to the Age Melbourne Writers's Festival got a rather mixed reception from festival-goers.

September 3, 2007

Stand-up comedy was not what festivalgoers had expected to get, writes Ray Cassin.

IF THE measure of a successful keynote speech is that people keep talking about it from the beginning to the end of a festival or conference, then Clive James was a smart choice to open the 2007 Age Melbourne Writers' Festival.

That judgement, however, must be heavily qualified by acknowledging that James' speech, "Our Inextinguishable Fortune", was such a keen topic of discussion because reactions to it tended to range from disappointment to extreme annoyance.

James' wit was certainly in evidence during his hour on the stage of the Melbourne Town Hall, and the opening night audience responded with laughter to his observations on subjects as various as Richard Burton's film hairstyles and his own prostate problems.
But for the ensuing week, comments — mostly unsolicited — from festivalgoers in the Malthouse foyer ran about 3-to-1 against the speech.

The most common complaint I heard was that James had been billed as speaking on themes from his book Cultural Amnesia, but had not done so. Instead, people said, they had been subjected to a stand-up comedy routine.

Festival director Rosemary Cameron said yesterday that James had addressed the advertised topic, though with plenty of digressions.

"I think the people who criticise it are right in that it probably wasn't what they were expecting," Ms Cameron said.

"But Clive is a brilliantly eccentric man, and I think his whole approach to the keynote showed that.


Kevin Cryan

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