Saturday, 5 October 2013

More Festival-going

Caroline is rightly indignant with the Cheltenham Festivals continuing to sideline the Gardens' Gallery in Montpellier. Not only do they omit any mention of the Gallery in their brochure, it doesn't even feature on the festival maps, or on the signposts. And the massed bank of festival loos is plonked just next to it, reducing it to worse than Cinderella status. (Postscript: A Festival-goer caught short, spent her penny, and then - noticing the Gallery - went in and spent a further £300.)

Until a month ago, Pascal Lamy headed the World Trade Organization: yesterday afternoon he came to Cheltenham to discuss his forthcoming memoir, "The Geneva Consensus". The Times' Philip Collins kept the discussion nice and general, though without much sympathy for where Lamy was coming from, Collins appearing both less internationalist and more Conservative.

The memoir's title was chosen to juxtapose the author's standpoint with the Washington Consensus, which has come to stand for "Liberalise and God will take care of the rest." Lamy's approach is rather to take care of how trade works - in order for trade to work at all.

He praised Gordon Brown - prescient about the need for global governance - but China's "Don't ask me to do what you haven't done!"sums up the impasse, for instance in reaching a worldwide consensus on carbon reduction. We can't, Lamy maintains, halt globalisation, because technology is its engine - and technology has no reverse gear. It brings people closer to one another, but they still have different cultures. (The Inuits have always killed seals, but Europe expresses its disgust by banning Canadian imports.) Globalisation has formidably shrunk the numbers of the planet's poor, but at the expense of greater inequality.

A stimulating hour! As was my evening session - a genial chat between Mark Lawson and Jonathan Miller. Again, the interviewer gave his subject plenty of rope: with this, he readily reprised the role of enfant terrible, by which he first came to fame. There were a few repetitions, and one or two names escaped him, but otherwise it was hard to think that this was a man in his 80th year.

Until afterwards, that is: beginning my bike ride home, I saw someone in the shadows outside the Writers' Room, puffing at a cigarette. The enfant terrible had morphed into the Picture of Dorian Gray. I turned the bike round, and asked if I could take a photograph. (Nothing ventured...) "I hate being photographed," came the response, but he was willing to chat. "I'm not a Jew, just jewish," I quoted from Beyond the fringe. Was he a believer in the divine? "Certainly not," he said, "and what's more if Jesus came back I would ensure he was brought before the International Criminal Court."

This morning, by contrast, I escaped to Tetbury again, and heard - inter alia - the sublime Sarah Connolly singing Schumann and Duparc. These repeated words of Baudelaire, set by the latter, sum up Tetbury in contrast to grungy, pragmatic, busy, eclectic Cheltenham: "Là, tout n'est qu'ordre et beauté, luxe, calme et volupté."

Used condoms form the detritus after Glastonbury: discarded Times cotton shopping bags after Cheltenham, and statins after Tetbury.

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