Alan Bennett’s Diaries Live – 16 November 2016, Showroom Sheffield
I am a massive fan of Alan Bennett, with “History Boys” being one of my favourite films of all time, his book “Untold Stories” making me cry, his new book “Keeping On Keeping On” at the top of my Christmas wish list and one of my career highlights reading and holding (but not allowing to have) a handwritten letter from him turning down the opportunity to be recognised at a festival I was helping to market at the Broadway Media Centre in Nottingham. So when my boyfriend informed me of this screening of “Alan Bennett’s Diaries” followed by a live screening of a Q&A with the man himself at Showroom Sheffield (a venue I love and not just because it’s the location of our first date) I had to book my ticket.
Shown at over 250 venues across the country, the live event aimed to take a candid look into the mind of Alan Bennett, who, at 82, shows no signs of slowing down. It started with a slide show of laugh out loud quotes from the diary followed a screening of Alan Bennett’s Diaries, a new film about the writer, followed by a Q&A with Alan Bennett hosted by Sue MacGregor from his local community library in Primrose Hill, which I was brave enough to submit a question for via twitter.
Inspired by his acerbic and often hilarious diaries, the film shows Alan as he’s never been seen before, following him to New York, the scene of his early triumph in “Beyond The Fringe”, to accept an award from the city’s Public Library; to Shepherd’s Bush to record an episode of “Private Passions” for Radio 3 and open up about the importance of music in his life; to his local community-run library in Primrose Hill, which, he despairs, some would rather see turned into a Pizza Hut; to the East Coast railway line, which he’d like to see renationalised, and the village in Yorkshire he calls home. Filmed over the course of a year, these and more intimate encounters with Alan reveal him as a writer who is bemused by his own popularity and is still as angry and irreverent in his 80s as he was in his 20s.
As well as leaving the audience in stitches as many points, the 70 minute film gave me as an aspiring writer an insight into Alan’s writing skills and an intimate look into his relationship and civil partnership, which to now he has kept close to his chest, via his favourite music, diary entries (including giving away the final entry of his new book) and film footage, which made me want to return to New York, continue with my own diary writing and make even more use of my local diary.
The Q&A that followed showed Alan and I share similar views on politics, British society and books and reminding my why he is one of my favourite writers and one of my favourite Brits.