Cheltenham Literature Festival 2018 Part 2: Jennifer Saunders and Scarlett Curtis.

I had some great feedback from people on my previous post, so was excited to write about the rest of my experiences at the Cheltenham Literature Festival 2018.  Attending was fantastic, especially as I got to meet some of my heroes.

A running theme throughout the festival this year was the power of being female. This is reflected in many of the events I attended. However, there were many more on female empowerment that my work schedule didn’t allow for. What was lovely was the amount of young women and men we saw milling around at such events. What a sign of the changing times.

THE EVENTS I ATTENDED – IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER – ARE:

  • Mary Shelley: A Life Of Men And Monsters
  • Jo Brand (on her book “Born Lippy“)
  • Jon Plowman and Jennifer Saunders
  • Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies)
  • Caitlin Moran

I also had tickets to a taping of the podcast The Guilty Feminist, but was irritatingly unwell so couldn’t go.

In this post, I’ll talk about the third and fourth events I went to.

Jon Plowman And Jennifer Saunders

“Jon Plowman (How to Produce Comedy Bronze) is the man behind every British comedy worth watching in the last 30 years, from Absolutely Fabulous to The Office; Little Britain to The League of Gentlemen; French and Saunders to Fry and Laurie… Join Jon and Jennifer Saunders talking about comedy, from the first germ of an idea to the after-party at the Emmys.”[1]

I love Jennifer Saunders. I also have a lot of time for Jon Plowman – he’s produced so many of my favourite shows – but I really didn’t enjoy this event. Abby and I were really looking forward to seeing one of our favourite funny women discussing comedy, but Saunders wasn’t actually able to do much discussing. Let me explain: Saunders was primarily there to interview Plowman on his newly released book How to Produce Comedy Bronze. She had questions cards and seemed very prepared, but Plowman interrupted her during almost all of her questions, so she wasn’t actually able to ask many of them at all.

The friendly dynamic between the two was evident from the beginning. Plowman is obviously a huge personality and very funny, but – although entertaining for the first ten minutes – his constant talking over Saunders started to wear a bit thin. There were a few mutterings of “let her speak!” from the row behind us. Even when it came to audience questions, an attendee explicitly directed a question “to the both of you”. Plowman actually talked over the end of the audience member’s question, answered it, then instantly called out “next question”, prompting Saunders to step in and say she “hadn’t answered the question yet”.  Overall, the event was fun and informative but verging on the awkward.

Plowman’s book is a fun and interesting read – I would recommend flicking through, if only for the comedy nostalgia. Saunders remains an absolute treasure in my eyes. Her book “Bonkers” is one of my favourite memoirs, especially when listened to as an audiobook.

Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies)

“From Hollywood actresses to teenage activists, Feminists Don’t Wear Pink brings together women from a variety of backgrounds in an uplifting exploration of what it means to be a woman today. The book’s curator, Style columnist and Pink Protest founder Scarlett Curtis, and two of its contributors, Somali social activist and Co-founder of Daughters of Eve Nimco Ali, trans activist, Nail Transphobia founder and author Charlie Craggs activist, writer and The Pants Project founder Tasha Bishop discuss the collection and to consider what the F word means to them.”[2]

We were scheduled to attend this event on Saturday afternoon so were on the festival site grabbing some lunch when we were confronted by a bright pink, split screen, Volkswagen camper van. Naturally, my interest was piqued and we wandered over to investigate. Stood alongside the van and running a book and sanitary product drive, was writer, Pink Protest founder and Feminists Don’t Wear Pink curator, Scarlett Curtis. We had a chat, she signed my book, gave me some pins and she said she hoped we’d enjoy her event. What a lovely interaction that was.

The Speakers

Joining Curtis on stage to discuss the book and feminism, were three fabulous women: Charlie Craggs, Nimco Ali and Tasha Bishop. Each had their own unique and incredible story to tell, but were all united in their views on equality. The support they gave each other as they discussed some difficult topics was heartwarming.

Scarlett Curtis: Style columnist and co-founder of The Pink Protest: “a community of activists committed to engaging in action and supporting each other. They are the home of the #FreePeriods movement, and exist in various mediums; from regular IRL events, to online video content, to actual real-life protests.”[3] She is also the daughter of Richard Curtis and Emma Freud.

Charlie Craggs: trans activist and author of To My Trans Sisters, Craggs also founded and runs Nail Transphobia – Craggs travels around the UK with a pop-up nail salon, giving manicures to strangers. This gives people who haven’t met a trans person an opportunity to sit down with Craggs, ask any questions, have a nice chat and generally just helps them understand that trans people are just people.

Nimco Ali: a Somali social activist, author of Rude: There’s no Such Thing as Over-Sharing and co-founder of Daughters of Eve – “a non profit organisation, that works to advance and protect the physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health rights of young people from female genital mutilation practising communities.”[4] Ali is a survivor of FGM herself and spoke candidly and bravely about her experience. She also provided me with the great quote “I have met offensive people. I do not take offence”. 

Tasha Bishop: Founder of The Pants Project – a non profit that promotes empowerment and raises awareness of infertility. Bishop was diagnosed with Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser syndrome as a teenager. MRKH affects 1 in 50,000 women and means being born without a womb.

The Book

Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies)  is a collection of pieces, gathered by Curtis from a variety of women – from teenage activists to Hollywood actresses. Funny, heartbreaking and inspiring – this is a perfect book to flick through a few pages at a time.

One of the brilliant reasons Curtis gave for creating the book was that “everyone should have access to these amazing stories, not just those who grew up with a dad who makes movies”. Profits from its sales also go to Girl Up, an initiative hosted by the United Nations Foundation.

Until Next Time

Keep your eyes peeled for more on my time at the Cheltenham Literature Festival soon. You can buy all of the books mentioned in my Amazon Storefront list – Cheltenham Literature Festival 2018”.

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REFERENCES AND DISCLAIMER

*I received some complimentary tickets in exchange for coverage.

[1] Jon Plowman And Jennifer Saunders blurb from https://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/literature/whats-on/2018/jon-plowman-and-jennifer-saunders/

[2] Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies) blurb from https://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/literature/whats-on/2018/feminists-dont-wear-pink-and-other-lies/

[3] Pink Protest –https://www.pinkprotest.org/about/

[4] Daughters of Eve – http://www.dofeve.org/about-us.html



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