The Graham Greene Festival returns after a sojourn last year for another hectic long weekend of events in Berkhamsted organised by festival director Mike Hill.
Hill says of this year’s event “In The Third Man, Graham Greene lampooned earnest literary gatherings by sending a writer of cheap novelettes to answer questions on James Joyce and the stream of consciousness. He might forgive us for organising a literary festival in his honour, an event now in its eighteenth year. People from all over the world will again descend on Berkhamsted to celebrate his life and works – many of them seasoned Greene Festival-goers, some first-time visitors. All are welcome, and all assured of a varied and interesting programme. There may be some earnestness, but there will certainly be friendliness and laughter. I hope you will come along.”
The festival is organised by the Graham Greene Birthplace Trust as Berkhamsted was where Graham’s father was headmaster of the venerable public school which Graham reluctantly attended; a deeply unhappy experience immortalised in the 1971 autobiography A Sort of Life. Greene mellowed towards his hometown though, returning to it imaginatively in late novels The Human Factor and The Captain and the Enemy. The four-day festival is only a half-hour train ride from London Euston, and is well worth the attention of all Greene fans in the Home Counties and beyond. As well as film screenings, gala dinners, and talks by both Greene scholars and film-makers involved in adaptations of his works, the festival has become a venue for launching new works of academic Greene scholarship.
This year’s highlights include the coup of a talk by Labour Big Beast, political biographer, and proud Yorkshireman Roy Hattersley on the recusancy of Shakespeare and the 20th Century revival of an English Catholic literary tradition. There is also an interview with Greene’s daughter and nephew, and a rare chance to see a 1961 version of The Power and the Glory starring Laurence Olivier and George C Scott, as well as two episodes from the 1970s Thames TV series Shades of Greene. The 2014 Festival innovation of a Greene book club is retained and expanded to include eight different titles (including my personal favourite The Ministry of Fear). Festival venues will feature exhibitions including ‘Greene in Theatreland’, and alongside the Festival bookstall’s recherché joys will be Richard Frost’s bookstall, with a large selection of books by and relating to Greene.
Thursday 22 September
Court House, The Gatsby, The Rex Cinema
Afternoon session (Cost: £5)
Court House, beside St Peter’s Church
2.15 ‘Graham Greene’s Common’: a guided walk (under three miles; includes WW1 trenches) led by Brian Shepherd, with readings from A Sort of Life and The Human Factor by Judy Mead and Richard Shepherd.
Assemble outside the Court House for introduction. Cars/lifts and stout walking shoes required for the start of the walk at Inns of Court War Memorial, New Road car park. If wet, illustrated talk with readings in the Court House.
5.30 Social gathering and buffet supper at The Gatsby. -7.15 Two courses and a glass of wine; vegan/vegetarian option. (Limited to 73 tickets. Book by Thursday 15 September at the latest.) Cost: £16
Film Night at The Rex Cinema
7.30 The Power and the Glory (CBS Television, 1961 – 90 -9.30 minutes) Director: Marc Daniels. With Laurence
Olivier, George C. Scott, Julie Harris, Cyril Cusack, Roddy McDowall.
Introduced by Professor Neil Sinyard. Cost: £9
Tickets are available for purchase online at www.grahamgreenebt.org, or by telephone: 07988 560496
Friday 23 September
The Town Hall, The Civic Centre
Morning session (Cost: £15)
The Town Hall
9.45 Journey With Maps: the beginning of Greene’s Quixotic holidays: a talk by Professor Carlos Villar Flor on Greene and Father Leopoldo Duran.
10.45 Break for tea and coffee
11.15 Travels with Auntie: the BBC’s James Naughtie interviews Nick Warburton about his writing career and his radio adaptations this year of The Honorary Consul and The Power and the Glory.
Break for lunch
Afternoon session (Cost: £15)
The Town Hall
2.30 The Catholic Muse: a talk by Lord (Roy) Hattersley.
Why, until the end of the nineteenth century were there so few distinguished Catholic writers and why were so many of the Catholic poets and novelists of the twentieth century converts? Roy Hattersley – carefully distinguishing between Catholic writers and writers who were Catholics – offers answers to those questions and tries to resolve the age old conundrum, was William Shakespeare, in the language of his age, a Papist?
3.30 Break for tea and coffee
4.15 Graham Greene Book Club: eight discussion groups, each focusing on a different Greene novel: The Man Within, England Made Me, The Power and the Glory, The Ministry of Fear, The End of the Affair, Our Man in Havana, The Human Factor, The Captain and the Enemy.
Evening session (Cost: £10)
The Civic Centre
7.45 Film night: two episodes from Shades of Greene -9.45 (Thames TV, 1975-6): Two Gentle People (50 mins), with Harry Andrews and Elaine Stritch, and Dream of a Strange Land (40 mins), with Ian Hendry. Introduced by: Dr David Rolinson of
Saturday 24 September
Deans’ Hall and Old Hall, Berkhamsted School
Morning session (Cost: £16)
9.30 Current Greene Research: presented by a University of North Georgia panel of students and faculty.
10.30 Break for tea and coffee
11.00 Graham Greene remembered: Vincent McDonnell, author of The Broken Commandment, interviewed by Mike Hill.
12.00 Launch of Graham Greene Studies by Professor -12.15 Joyce Stavick.
Break for lunch
Mid-afternoon session (Cost: £16)
2.15 Greene and Jews: a talk by Professor Cedric Watts on the paradoxical treatment of Jews in a number of Greene’s nonfictional and fictional works, including The Name of Action, Stamboul Train and Brighton Rock.
3.15 Break for tea and coffee
3.45 Regarding Graham: Caroline Bourget, Greene’s daughter, and Nick Dennys, Greene’s nephew, interviewed by Dr Jon Wise.
Late afternoon session (Cost: £12)
5.00 The Birthday Toast: by David Pearce.
5.15 ‘I’ve always wanted to be in a publisher’s office’ (Graham Greene, 1933): a talk by Professor Judith Adamson on Greene the publisher.
Evening session (Cost: £35)
7.45 Festival Dinner: three courses with wine and coffee; vegan/vegetarian alternative. (Limited to 60 tickets. Book by Thursday 15 September at the latest.)
Sunday 25 September
Careers Library and Old Hall, Berkhamsted School
Morning session (Cost: £15)
Careers Library (next to Old Hall)
10.00 ‘Something to catch hold of in the general flux’: Greene’s presentation of religious ideas and longings in his first three novels – The Man Within, The Name of Action and Rumour at Nightfall: a talk by Dr Alice Reeve-Tucker.
11.00 Break for tea and coffee
11.30 Taking liberties: two controversial film adaptations of, and by, Graham Greene: a talk by Professor Neil Sinyard.
Lunch (Cost: £24)
1.00 Farewell Lunch: cold buffet, wine and coffee; vegan/vegetarian option. (Limited to 60 tickets. Book by Thursday 15 September at the latest.)
Tickets are available for purchase at http://www.grahamgreenebt.org, or by phone: 07988 560496. A Season Ticket to all events, excluding the film at The Rex and meals, is available for ￡95. There is free admission to Festival events (excluding the film at The Rex and meals) for under 21s and holders of the Dacorum Card.
Become a Friend of the Graham Greene Birthplace Trust at http://www.grahamgreenebt.org and receive a quarterly newsletter, a Festival discount of ￡1 per event (for up to five events), or a Season Ticket to all events, excluding the film at Thee Rex and meals, for ￡95.
Graham Greene Birthplace Trust
On the website (www.grahamgreenebt.org) there are further details of the talks, interviews and speakers, online ticketing service, and information on any changes that may arise. Tickets will be on sale at the door for all events other than the meals and the Rex film, but it would be preferable to book in advance online from the website. Season tickets are available for those who plan to attend all the talks.