Festival of Writing and Ideas – Borris House – Sunday Review

Polly Jean Harvey with Guitar

First up on Sunday was the Sunday Assembly, which bills itself as a church with no God! The main man behind the event, Sanderson Jones described himself as a happy man that likes to clap, and therefore has no problem with the term ‘Happy Clappy’. The idea behind the event that have been running in Bethnal Green for some time is to give people that don’t have a faith a place to meet, sing and talk with other members of this unusual community. It’s a nice idea and there’s even talk of a new event in Ireland, so stay tuned.

I bought my first PJ Harvey album ‘Dry’ when I was 18 years old, and I haven’t missed an album since in her 20 year career, so the chance to hear her talk about her work was one I could not pass up. Anne Enright brought us through PJ’s various work, and talked about her artistic process. The most interesting thing was just how hard she works at creating her art. She works at poetry in the morning, either reading books on the topic or writing and in the afternoon she writes music or paints. It seems almost like a day job, and sounds like it does not come as easy to her as I’ve often presumed, no beam of light coming through the window was how she described it. She shows all her new work to two of her best friends, producer Flood and fellow musician John Parish, and they are not afraid to tell her exactly what they think. She is a quiet and intense person who loves what she does and is prepared to work hard to achieve her goals. She certainly changed my perspective on the rock star ethos!

Selina Hastings worked as a journalist before she found her way into writing biographies, and has worked on such intriguing people as Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh. In this discussion with Polly Devlin she recounted a number of fascinating anecdotes about her encounters with the people she wrote about and those in their lives. She seems another hard working soul, and becomes obsessed with whoever she writes about, letting them take over her life as she delves into their past, through diaries, letters and anything else she can get her hands on.

Michael Craig Martin and Aidan Dunne Interview

During the 1980’s Michael Craig Martin worked in Goldsmiths College and taught such artists as Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas. It is no surprise that he inspired a young generation of artists, as his talk was absorbing, as he discussed his life and work with Aidan Dunne. He is an artists that seems to be busier than ever at 71, with the size and scope of his work increasing every year, but for many he’ll never surpass his oak tree. The key to visual art is observation according to the man himself, and he cited Josef Albers as a key influence on his work.

The final lecture of the day was Dorothy Cross and Sarah Glennie, and they discussed Dorothy’s career and the variety of her work, including such lavish schemes as the ghost ship and an opera in a cave in Cork. She also revealed that she turned down Saatchi when he tried to buy a large amount of her work, which could have sent her into the stratosphere in artistic terms. He wanted to buy her ‘udder series’ and after a dream where she went into Macys and found everything covered in udders, she said no to the offer. She refuses to compromise on her work and never repeats herself, which makes her all the more intriguing.

When I initially saw the line up of the festival, I was surprised by the quality and they have set the bar high for next years event, but we look forward to seeing what they come up with. Hopefully they’ll make sure one of the key guests returns for next year, the Sun, although this could prove slightly more problematic to organise. It is a lovely festival in a near perfect venue that should continue to grow and grow.

Images of Borris House and Grounds below:

Categories: Art, Books, Gigs, Music, Photography, Talks

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