I’ve been a fan of Tony Robinson ever since I was old enough to watch Blackadder with my dad and explore the hidden world of England with Time Team, so when an opportunity to see him talk at my very University came along, I had to take it. This poem, however, was not what I thought would be the first thing I heard him say.
As part of Liverpool’s Literary Festival taking place between 19th-21stOctober, ‘A Date With…Tony Robinson’ was a chance to hear from the face of popular history and a comedic genius talk about his life, his career, and promote his new book ‘No Cunning Plan’.
After reading out this famous nursery rhyme, he spoke about his love of rhythm and repetition in literature. He had attended elocution lessons as a young boy, describing it as the moment he fell in love with words and their ability to evoke meaning. His first role on the West End in the musical ‘Oliver!’ as a young boy propelled him further into the world of literature and drama, and claimed he would bunk off school to go to the library and read. The passion for this topic spilled out of him talking into every story and every word he was saying, reminding me of why his career as presenter and actor has been so successful. Robinson’s engaging talk had me hooked onto every tale of his life, every account from Time Team and every anecdote from Blackadder.
He read an extract from his book ‘No Cunning Plan’ where he describes coming to Liverpool in 1968 with a theatre company to perform. When they arrived, they found that Leftist students were occupying the Senate House, so they walked the audience over to the Senate House and performed for the students. Robinson described this as one of the greatest moments of his career. He reminisced that every time he comes back to Liverpool, he is reminded of that great spirit and passion, and to an audience mostly from Liverpool you could feel the mutual respect flowing between the two.
For the last section of the talk, the audience were able to ask questions. I stretched my hand up and asked “if Blackadder were to be filmed now, what characters and issues would you satirise”. A round of applause came from the audience which I have to say I was not expecting, and the man sat next to me relayed that it was “a very good question”. Robinson laughed slightly before referring back to the nursery rhyme ‘Humpty Dumpty’ as the perfect illustration of Brexit. He then claimed that if Baldrick was to be anyone, he would be Jeremy Corbyn. Acknowledging his answer in regard to the political stance of the city, he beamed saying “I love saying that in Liverpool”.
Not only was this a chance to hear from a man I had seen on TV since childhood, it gave me an understanding of how important literature was not only to Robinson, but to the city and the nation. This festival is a great chance to hear discussions, take workshops and debate in the 2008 city of culture. I would fully recommend taking part in the festival next year, which I hope will continue to run bi-annually. And it’s a chance to meet some of the famous faces as well!