Preaching to the converted

3 May


Kaye Franklin

Kaye Franklin would approve


3rd May 2016, Swindon Festival of Literature

The Kaye Franklin Memorial Lecture

In taking the phrase ‘preaching to the converted’ as the title of this post I’m leaping to the end of today’s lecture delivered by Matt Holland, at Swindon Arts Centre.

Having made his last point, Matt sat down in readiness for the Q&A session, looked out at the audience and observed a feeling of ‘foolishness’ at having spent 30/40 minutes talking about the role of literature in life to a crowd of people who almost certainly believe that there is a role and a purpose to literature – because why else would they have been in that lecture? QED?

So did Matt need to feel foolish? Is there a role for literature in life? And if so – what is it?

Big questions needing Deep Thought. My responses? No, not at all. Yes definitely. And finally – a whole host of things.

It’s somewhat appropriate to have a lecture about the role of literature in life at a time when Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary is being celebrated and similar questions are being asked about his work and relevance to us today. And yes – it is. IMHO.

If literature is about communicating through words then Matt Holland used the words of literature to communicate all the ways in which it plays a part in our lives.

For this inaugural Kaye Franklin Memorial Lecture was stuffed to the gills with quotes and poetry along with a tumbling stream of points to answer its title.  For someone who claimed not to have done much reading as a child and a teenager, Matt Holland has clearly made up for it since. Even though I’ve studied literature myself (and relatively recently) I’m awed by the breadth and depth of his references.

So what to pick from the lecture to highlight? I’m looking at my notes now and struggling to do that simply because there was so much. Hence, and in no particular order at all, some offerings on the role of literature in life:

  • Literature entertains, informs and reassures us. It also persuades us.
  • It disturbs and destabilizes us and it fires our imaginations.
  • Literature can break our hearts. It’s impossible to read ‘The Remains of the Day’ without sobbing – it’s just so sad!
  • Literature teaches us that the most important things in life are the same wherever you are.
  • It’s about the human condition – it tells us about ourselves.
  • Literature is the means by which writers ply their trade.
  • Speaking and listening to words is very different to writing and reading. We are affected differently. Reading forces us to slow down our thoughts. Reading and writing take us ‘up a notch’.  It’s this developed language that sums up the difference between man and monkey.

Indeed those that have studied primates have observed how frustrated they become at their lack of means to communicate what they so evidently wish to.

In the words of Jeanette Winterston: (I paraphrase here) ‘the trouble with books is that once they are opened it’s too late’. And it does rather tend to be doesn’t it?

Magical Mystery Tour

I could just have easily entitled this post ‘It’s a kinda magic’. Because, as someone said, the English alphabet has only 26 letters in it yet what magic is made with the mixing of them.

This thoughtful and thought provoking lecture, the delivery of which left Matt visibly and touchingly emotional at one point, was a fitting tribute to a lady who clearly loved Swindon and loved literature.

Matt introduced the lecture and himself as if he were a stranger to Swindon commenting ‘you are very lucky to live in Swindon’.

Indeed we are Matt. Indeed we are.

Chronicle by Angela Atkinson

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