Sandi Toksvig at the Swindon Festival of Literature

6 May
Sandi Toksvig with Matt Holland

Sandi Toksvig with Matt Holland

I do love a good book event. The interviewer and interviewee on stage in comfortable chairs, normally with a table between them. Sometimes there are flowers and glasses of water. There’s always a pull-up thing behind them advertising something else. And last night I got the chance to see Sandi Toksvig in action, doing what she does best, talking at a hundred miles an hour on a myriad of subjects from being short to the King of Sweden. Her latest book, Peas and Queues, is about manners and how to behave properly. Apparently, Sandi got the idea from chastising her daughter who was eating with her elbows on the table. Sandi told her to get her elbows off, her daughter asked her why. She had no idea why. The book topic suits Sandi with her clipped, upper-class accent; I expect her to be a font of all knowledge onthings like this. Her accent tells me so.

It was a packed house for the event, which started, randomly, when interviewer Matt Holland (festival director) mentioned that she now shares a birthday with royalty. A couple of women in the row in front of me started singing happy birthday to her and soon the whole audience started belting out the song to her. Even I croaked out a couple of notes, but quietly so that my tone-deafness wouldn’t ruin the moment. She took it all in good grace and seemed to really enjoy playing with the audience. Matt gave half of the time allotted to allow us to ask her questions and she seemed interested in everyone who asked her something. She wanted to know their names, a bit about them and made sure she answered their questions as well as cracking jokes.

Sandi was good fun and her sharp wit was in full force. How on earth does she do it? Her mind must be working overtime pretty much constantly. The poor interviewer, Matt, didn’t stand a chance last night, bless him. He was good though and joined in with the jokes, starting when he mentioned how nice Sandi had been to him when they met at the train station and then how she was even nicer to him in the car park. Most of the people around me were in stitches at this point. Sandi didn’t have to say a word, her face told us everything. How does she do this?

The big announcement of the night was that Sandi is leaving the News Quiz on BBC Radio 4 to set up her own political party – the Women’s Equality Party. This was a massive shock to me and plenty of other people – there were lots of murmurings throughout the crowd. The old man next to me nodded sagely. Sandi was very passionate about this next phase in her life, and the crowd were totally engaged. It sparked off plenty of questions about her aims, what she wants to achieve and if Andy Hamilton is really that smart in real life.

Apparently, he is.

Sandi Toksvig appeared at the Wyvern Theatre as part of the Swindon Festival of Literature.

Words by Claire Snook. Photo by Calyx Pictures.

One Response to “Sandi Toksvig at the Swindon Festival of Literature”


  1. Public Intellectual is not a dirty name – Suzannah Lipscomb at Swindon Festival of Literature | Festival Chronicle - 17th May 2015

    […] to know their subject and then, on top of that, be original and funny. Fast-thinking funny lady Sandi Toksvig announced at the beginning of the Festival she was leaving Radio Four and starting a new, feminist […]

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