Alan Johnson

Derby Book Festival

June 14, 2017

“Matthew Parris is one of my favourite writers. His elegant prose has adorned ‘The Times’ for many years and long before I became a Member of Parliament he was that paper’s sketch writer on Parliamentary proceedings. His column was required reading and I remember being thrilled when he mentioned me in a report from a Labour Party conference where I had made a short contribution as a trade union leader.

More recently I appeared on his long running radio series ‘Great Lives’ to talk about George Orwell. As well as his ability with the pen Matthew has a beautiful voice that is perfect for my preferred broadcast media.

Finally, in this homage to my favourite Tory, Matthew was of course an MP himself. He left the green benches to pursue a writing/broadcasting career and therefore cleared a path that I aim to follow.

I was delighted to hear that Matthew was to be my interviewer at the Derby Book Festival on Monday evening (June 12th).

So engaging was his questioning that the event had to be extended by fifteen minutes.

The success of a book event depends so much on the person conducting the interview.

Matthew strayed into difficult areas but always in those honeyed tones which made inquisition enjoyable. He had read ‘The Long and Winding Road’ meticulously and, as I told him on the night, found thoughts and emotions in the text that I didn’t mean to convey – those inner truths that are exposed unintentionally when a memoirist bares his or her soul.

The late John Freeman presented a television interview programme in the 1960’s called ‘Face to Face’. It famously exposed celebrities like Tony Hancock and Gilbert Harding to something akin to a psychiatrist’s chair.

I have a suggestion for the TV programme makers. Re-commission Face to Face with Matthew Parris as the interviewer. It’s bound to be a ratings success.”

For more information about the Derby Book Festival click here 

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