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Review: Gyles Brandreth at Bishop's Stortford College Festival of Literature

By Imogen Dwyer

Gyles Brandreth at the Bishops Stortford College Festival of Literature Picture: Ian Taylor
Gyles Brandreth at the Bishops Stortford College Festival of Literature Picture: Ian Taylor

Watching Gyles Brandreth leap up on stage was impressive for a man who is almost 70.

At that point, at the start of his appearance at the Bishop’s Stortford College Festival of Literature on Saturday evening, I really did not know what to expect. I thought it might be heavily political, as he was once a Tory MP, but, in fact, this was merely a backdrop to his effervescent prose.

He amused his audience for 90 minutes and took us on eloquent and humorous journeys through his many interactions with, and observations of, people and life.

He regaled the audience with his story of euphemisms for going to the loo; for example, take a whizz, visit the ladies, go to the bathroom et cetera. Therefore, he was delighted when he shadowed the Queen and Prince Philip for a few days to find that the Queen takes ‘an opportunity to tidy’.

Often, Mr Brandreth sailed close to the wind and touched on recent events such as equality for women, equal pay and harassment. Then he told us how he knew his good friend, the actor Donald Sinden, would be so glad to be here instead of him, particularly because it would mean that he would still be alive!

He shared many anecdotes about language and gave us top tips on how to always speak clearly and how he was proud to have an Oxford accent. He reminded us of the importance of how we present ourselves, instructing us always to adjust our posture and to remember that words have power and can change our meanings.

He recalled how he once interviewed the famous writer, Kingsley Amis, who opened the door and told him he had just hit his son with a hammer. The Telegraph, at the time, went to press with this news, only to be put straight by Amis’ publicist, who explained that he had in fact hit his thumb with a hammer. Therefore, we must enunciate clearly and not mumble.

I was surprised that I enjoyed this evening quite so much and my words of the night were ‘relish’, ‘discombobulated’ and ‘euphemisms’.


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