18th Graham Greene International Festival 2016

Post image for 18th Graham Greene International Festival 2016

22–25 September 2016
Jonathan Steffen reports

Every year, on or near the date of Graham Greene’s birth, a little pocket of Greeneland appears in the writer’s native Berkhamsted. The tidy and well-heeled town with its elegant high street and eminent school becomes a temporary home to what the Oxford Living Dictionary defines as

“The seedy, politically unstable and dangerous world in the novels of Graham Greene.”

Alienation and adultery, bullying and betrayal, Communism and Catholicism, double-dealing and despair, espionage and existential angst – one needs no more letters of the alphabet to evoke the unique fictional world created by this astonishingly well-read and well-travelled writer, whose works are as popular now as when they first began to appear in the early decades of the 20th century.

In the year that saw Graham Greene’s school celebrate the 475th anniversary of its foundation, the Graham Greene International Festival was staged in Berkhamsted for the 18th time.

Under the able direction of Mike Hill – co-author with Jon Wise of The Works of Graham Greene: A Reader’s Bibliography and Guide – the 2016 programme was comprehensive, varied and wide-ranging.

The traditional screening of a Graham Greene film (in this case, The Third Man) was complemented by a viewing of two of Greene’s short stories that had been dramatized for television by Thames TV in the 1970s. Scholarly analyses of Greene’s work were supplemented by ‘book club’ discussion groups, in which sixth-formers from Berkhamsted School participated with enthusiasm and an impressive working knowledge of the works under scrutiny.

Day #125 Tower of Greene - Photo by Martin Weller http://bit.ly/2d9im22

Nick Warburton, who recently adapted Greene’s novels The Honorary Consul and The Power and the Glory for BBC Radio Four, reflected on the challenges of the process of reworking fiction for the air waves, while Lord Roy Hattersley gave a sparkling and provocative talk on Catholic writers in Britain, with special reference to Graham Greene. Greene’s daughter Caroline Bourget and his nephew Nick Dennys shared their personal recollections of the great writer, and Prof. Neil Sinyard concluded the festival with his now traditional analysis of Greene’s work for the big screen, peppering it as ever with memorable insights and hilarious anecdotes.

Experts and enthusiasts, readers and re-readers enjoyed the high quality of the festival programme as much as the discussions it inspired.

The only shadow cast over the event (which took place in brilliant autumn sunshine throughout) was the serious illness of David Pearce, former Housemaster and Head of English at Berkhamsted School, joint founder of the Graham Greene Birthplace Trust, former Director of the Graham Greene International Festival, and a fine poet in his own right. At the traditional birthday toast to Graham Greene, glasses were raised to David too, and our thoughts remain with him and his family.

The 2017 festival will take place in Berkhamsted from Thursday 21 September to Sunday 24 September 2017. To book your place, please visit grahamgreenebt.org: familiar faces and friends unknown are equally welcome.



The Old Town Hall, Berkamsted – one of the venues for the annual Graham Greene International Festival


Ink sketch by Richard Kenworthy http://bit.ly/2dG8YSi and http://bit.ly/OJZNiI

Photo of Greene books, Day #125 Tower of Greene, by Martin Weller http://bit.ly/2d9im22 and http://bit.ly/1jNlqZo

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