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.

Kenneth Williams: hero or villain?

kenneth williams 1949

Kenneth Williams, 1949


The challenge at the Hampstead and Highgate literary festival was to define how I saw Kenneth Williams – was he a hero or a villain? In the chair was Melissa Katsoulis; around the table were Daisy Waugh (talking about Rudolph Valentino), Anna Sebba (Wallis Simpson) and Justine Picardie (Coco Chanel).

As I don’t have the permission of the other writers to broadcast their talks, this excerpt features only me, cramming as many anecdotes as possible into my quarter of an hour.