The raspberry war

During my interview with Ray Galton and Alan Simpson in Stratford upon Avon on Wednesday 23 November, Ray told the tale of a raspberry-blowing war with Spike Milligan that very nearly ended in the death of Harry Secombe.

We had a great time at the Civic Hall, with a wonderful audience who were queueing up to ask questions at the end. Thanks to the organiser, Tim Raistrick, whose energy and tireless optimism made it all possible.


Oldie lunch

The rules of the Oldie lunch say speakers should talk for just ten minutes, but Barry Cryer put me at my ease in the bar before the event – “Don’t look at your watch,” he advised me. “Just stop talking if you see them yawning through gritted teeth!”

Here’s the speech I gave, at Simpson’s in the Strand, on 22 November 2011. My subject was Galton and Simpson, The Men Who Invented Sitcom... and Ray & Alan were sitting to my right, disagreeing cheerfully with the accolade. I couldn’t hear their whispers, but it turned out later that they were telling the Independent’s diarist that they didn’t invent the genre at all: they got the original idea from listening to AFN Stuttgart in the 40s. I refuse to accept that German radio dreamed up sitcom, so I shall continue to credit Ray and Alan with the invention.

Here’s the piece in the Indie, and here’s a podcast of the speech itself. If you think I sound nervous, you’re right!


Kenneth Williams, Joe Orton and the debacle of Felicity's 21st birthday

This is the talk I gave about Kenneth Williams and the playwright Joe Orton, at the Islington Museum in St John Street, London, on Thursday 16 November. The lecture, which was free, was well attended, and there were plenty of interesting questions from the audience. The talk was recorded in the exhibition room, where the walls were hung with the library book covers that Orton and his partner, Kenneth Halliwell, had defaced (they were both jailed for six months in 1962 for the crime). The exhibition, Malicious Damage, runs until February.

Masters of Sitcom reviewed

Elaine Schollar of the Tony Hancock Appreciation Society has sent this review of Masters Of Sitcom to subscribers. That’s a tough audience for a book like this... most of the members can recite entire episodes! I’m delighted that Elaine rates it as a “must have”!

Adoption and autism

Here’s the Observer piece I wrote about families whose adopted children are later diagnosed with special needs, especially autism.The case studies were provided by the National Autistic Society; my thanks to everyone in the press office there.

Writers' Forum

Kate Pain from Writer’s Forum magazine interviewed me about the process of submitting a book proposal to publishers. I told her how I had constructed the proposal for Masters Of Sitcom, and explained the key points that any book submission must include if it’s to convince an editor.

Click below to read the article.

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