Brighton Festival 2014: Lynn Barber and the Dark and Stormy Festival

Brighton Festival 2014

This is a recount of the final events of the last weekend I helped with at the Brighton festival.

Lynn Barber on Celebrity Interviews

This event was in collaboration with New Writing South.

Barber is a journalist, who is famous for her celebrity interviews. In this talks she discussed her method, the nature and value of celebrity (celeb) interviews. Barber was delightful, you can see how any celeb would become relaxed in her presence. I left impressed, but with a resolution never to be in a position where I would need to be interviewed for the enjoyment of the general public.

Barber discussed the light relief celebrity interviews provide, especially in parallel to the News. They focus attention on the individual and the importance of private life. Barber hates the word celebrity, but feels there is no alternative. Famous doesn’t work for her as you can have famous scientists. (She doesn’t interview people in academic fields.) She was candid on why she interviews celebs rather than ‘real people’. “That’s what sells papers.”

She feels sorry for new celebs who think she cares about their lives and then tell her too much. Keen to make it clear to them that she is not their friend. She mentioned celebrities may feel obliged to answer her questions, so ensures she states at the beginning of an interview that they can shake their head if they would prefer not to answer. Seasoned celebs know interviews are good for their career. They are often negotiated in return for a review on the product the celeb is promoting.

“Publicists and PR are the bug bare of celeb interviews.”

Tricking the naive celebs, she joked, is like playing poker with a child, “you win but you don’t feel good about it.” She does feels celeb interviews can serve a positive purpose, citing Stephen Fry discussing mental illness. They can raise awareness by discussing their own troubles.

“Doing badly at school is almost a prerequisite of being a celeb”

Many of her interviewees have had drink and drug issues. Ex-addicts, she muses, have a zeal to preach about it which she feels can be useful to her readers.

On discussing the ethics of celebrity interviews Barber felt that journalists should write as they find and not worry about the greater good. She wrote a good piece on Nigel Farage, it didn’t mean she supported UKIP. ‘You cannot be sued for libel as long as you ask a question and accurately record the answer.’ This advice was given to her, and she tries to ensure she has a Dictaphone with her at each interview. She would encourage celebs to bring their own Dictaphone so they also have a record of the interview. Barber stated categorically that she would never doctor quotes. She believes anyone who does should be kicked out of the profession.

Barber will tread carefully around the topic of marriage and children. She feels children should not be punished for their parents actions. She is also careful about revealing information about people who are not present at the interview. If she can find the detail elsewhere only then will she use it.

In conclusion, Barber stressed that a journalists loyalty is to the reader. However, she has strong ethics on how interviews should be conducted and reported.

Spies Fact and Fiction

This event was in collaboration with the Dark and Stormy Festival.

Crime isn’t a genre I am well read in, so this and the following event have rather sparse notes.

The highlight of this event was the presence of ex-head of MI5 Stella Rimington, author of a plethora of spy fiction novels. I was beyond impressed by this woman.  Her fiction is based on her colleagues work at the time she was part of MI5, the actions are based on what she saw on the inside.

“I make her say things I have thought but never said.”

Murder on Sea, Brighton and Crime

This event was in collaboration with the Dark and Stormy Festival.

A multi-sensory experience, filled with interviews, quizzes, readings and music. I didn’t win the quiz, which was unsurprising considering my limited knowledge of the crime genre. Have to admit, 3/4 of the panelists novels did not interest me. But I did purchase Colette McBeth’s book, Precious Thing and then read it in a day – definitely one to be pick up! There was this moment while reading where I shouted ‘the twists’ and ran to share my progress on GoodReads, that’s how good it is. If it comes to the point where I vocalise my feelings at their immediate occurrence it’s got to be due to some sort of brilliance.

The featured image is from this event. I also have a video of the singing, but I can’t seem to get it from my phone to my laptop. Technology fail.

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3 Comments on "Brighton Festival 2014: Lynn Barber and the Dark and Stormy Festival"

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Richard
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I absolutely love Brighton! One of my favourite places to visit!

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[…] work at last year’s Brighton Festival. My fellow volunteer, Agnes and I, ended up at the crime event concluding the festivals events. She was on a panel with another novelist I discovered, Natalie Haynes. After the event, I […]

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