The first Tunbridge Wells Literary Festival has attracted some of the world’s best-known and best-selling authors, including festival headliners Jo Brand and David Baddiel, who, as Victoria Roberts finds out, are no strangers in the city…
David Baddiel started out as one of the UK’s most successful comedians, selling out stadiums in the 1990s with comedic partner Rob Newman, followed by another successful TV double act with Midland comedian Frank Skinner with the popular TV show Fantasy Football League. Oh and not to mention their single “Three Lions” with Ian Broudie.
But the 57-year-old is now a best-selling author, but becoming a writer wasn’t something he planned.
“There’s nothing I’ve done in my life that was a career decision,” he told The Times. “I had an idea for a book one day after my eight-year-old son said, ‘Why didn’t Harry Potter run away from the Dursleys and find better parents?’ He was talking about Harry’s adoptive Muggle family in the book, and I thought that was a good idea for a book.
“So I wrote Parent Agency – a world where a child walks through their bedroom wall into a world where they can choose their own parents.
“It’s sold over a million copies, and since I love children’s books and storytelling, I guess I’m an author now.”
However, his latest literary work is not fiction, and “Jews Don’t Matter” takes on the much more serious subject of anti-Semitism.
“It happened in a way not too different from when I started writing children’s books, which I only did because I had children and it gave me ideas” , he explained. “As I was on social media, it became clear to me that anti-Semitism was on the rise and much more vocalized.
“Being openly Jewish, I was always aware of anti-Jewish racism and had seen it anyway, but on Twitter I was getting a lot of it.
“One of the issues that was close to my heart was that there were Jews who were ashamed of being Jews, so I reacted and spoke about it.
“Then three years ago I was asked to write an essay and because I had put a lot of energy into talking about anti-Semitism, especially coming from backgrounds you wouldn’t expect it and not just from the far right, like Corbyn’s Labor Party. . But it has much deeper roots and a much broader unease about why Jews are being left out when talking about racism,” says -he.
But the former TV comic insists his Tunbridge Wells show will not be without humour.
“Although anti-Semitism is a serious subject, that doesn’t mean it can’t be funny,” he adds.
While in Tunbridge Wells to visit the festival, it’s not a city unknown to the comedian-turned-author.
“I’m pretty sure I played gigs here at Assembly Hall, but I also lived not too far away in Sittingbourne,” he says. “We had a house there and we always came to Tunbridge Wells because it was the smarter part of Kent – much smarter than Sittingbourne anyway – and I always thought it was a place very pleasant.
“So I’m very pro-Kent even though I don’t have a home here anymore, but I can’t wait to get back. I like to think of myself as an honorary Kentish Man.
“I’m looking to see the legendary Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells who I hope will come to my show.”
You can see David Baddiel in the Assembly Hall on Friday, April 29 at 8 p.m.
Jo Brand is a British comedian who rose to prominence as part of the alternative comedy scene of the 1980s, where she became big enough to write and headline her own shows, while earning a following as a as a writer, publishing half a dozen books.
The comedian is also a former schoolgirl from Tunbridge Wells and is looking forward to returning to the town she says she loves “very much” to discuss her book “Born Lippy: How to Do Female”. But as she tells The Times, that’s not a last word, or even a word of authority…
“I can’t speak from an academic point of view. It’s a personal thing, in terms of my experiences as a woman, I can only speak from my own perspective.
“There was kind of a loose structure at the beginning and a brainstorming about what issues I wanted to cover – the difference between me when I was a teenager and the different issues teenagers have these days.”
Ultimately, she says, “it’s not meant to be an intellectual tour de force.” My goal is to make people laugh.
Her book tackles dark themes, such as dysfunctional families and physical and mental abuse.
“I don’t see why you can’t put that stuff into comedy. Most of my stuff contains something dark. Recently, there have been a lot of very personal comedies and the very difficult times that people have been through, ”she explains.
In the past, comedians’ material wasn’t so personal, to the point that it wasn’t even possessed, “that’s why the jokes were going around,” she suggested, admitting that her material isn’t even owned. was not universal.
“I’m very aware that there’s a real continuum of different types of comedy and I have an acquired taste,” she said. “But literary festivals are very different from comedy. It is highly unlikely that people will heckle.
Although Jo adds that a crowd at a literary festival in Frome, Somerset, had been drinking, which she described as “interesting”.
“There was a heist. People had been queuing for quite some time and the queue went past the bar. Their behavior was interesting.
“Someone even sat on my lap – he walked around the (signing) table,” she says, adding. “At least they didn’t hit me.”
Jo was a natural headliner for the Tunbridge Wells Literary Festival, having spent formative and happy years at Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School (TWGGS), and she has fond memories of the place itself.
When asked if the organizers should go beg her agents or throw tons of money and flattery at her, she replied, “Neither! I really like Tunbridge Wells and agree.
“I really liked it at TWGGS. I had to travel a long way (to go to school) but I had very good friends there. I liked it a lot.”
You can catch Jo Brand at Assembly Hall on Saturday, April 30 at 8 p.m.