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Camden New Journal - One Week with JOHN GULLIVER
Published: 17 July 2008

Clarinettist Wally Fawkes performs at the annual meeting of PEN group
Max Arthur meets George Bush and Debbie Moggach

I HEADED to Kensington last night (Wednesday) to enjoy a glass of wine with the members of the esteemed writers organisation known as PEN.
The group, which has campaigned for freedom of speech since its inception in 1921 by luminaries including the Hampstead-based novelist and Nobel Prize winner John Galsworthy, was having its annual summer garden party and among the guests I spotted the historian Max Arthur.
I learned that Max, who lives in Highgate, was among the those invited to Number 10 last month to dine with George W Bush. He told me Chatham House rules applied, therefore he could only speak off the record about the event – but he had a grand half-hour with the outgoing president, and also sat next to Rupert Murdoch.
Max, who is currently making a documentary based on interviews with veterans from the Spanish Civil War, recalled that Murdoch’s father had fought at Gallipoli and the pair traded war stories.
The new PEN president, novelist Lisa Appignanesi, told guests how important it was for writers to continue to ­campaign for free speech.
She said: “I am afraid we live in a time when liberty and security appear to have become enemies.”
Other guests I spotted included novelist Deborah Moggach, biographer Julian Evans and clarinettist Wally Fawkes, whose band the Crouch End All Stars – made up of retired Fleet Street hacks – provided the music.
I also spoke to ­Kentish Town historian Gillian Tindall, who is currently exercised by the fate of Little Green Street, the Georgian terrace near her home threatened by plans to use it as an access route for a 30-home development.
She told me: “I can only hope the side-effect of a fall in house prices and the credit crunch is that unscrupulous developers might be put off from ruining our neighbourhoods.”

Night out for Daniel Craig star of James Bond

JAMES Bond star Daniel Craig, star of the latest James Bond film Casino Royale, flew in from Panama where he is shooting a new film, for a celebratory evening last week with old friends at the Gay Hussar restaurant in Soho.
He wanted to mark the life of Ed Wilson who moulded the National Youth Theatre – and by all accounts the evening was a riotous occasion.
Craig first met Wilson, who died last year, when he was a young boy working with the NYT.
Craig also knew our literary editor Illtyd ­Harrington, a former NYT council member, who had organised the reunion.
Illtyd told me: “Dan was on great form. He has such a strong personality. He was very ­concerned and I think he sees me as a kind of great-grandfather figure – he shepherded me in from the street. It was the perfect West End evening.”
The old friends – including Broadway director Matthew Wacufs, Rupert Penry-Jones and Jessica Hynes – told Illtyd they owed their careers to Mr ­Wilson.
Illtyd said: “All of us owe a great debt to Ed, Dan especially. He would be the first to say he was a difficult boy during his NYT days.
“He doesn’t seem affected by his star ­status.”
Good to hear Mr Craig has still got his feet on the ground – which is more than can be said about our Illtyd.
Jessica Hynes, who had also enjoyed a few drinks, I am told, made a strange request.
Illtyd said: “She said: ‘take off your shoes and stockings’. She started rubbing my feet. It was reflexology. I thought ‘what have I been missing?’ She was quite fearless, and gorgeous looking. Actors, my dear!”

Sir John Loveridge's will

I HEAR the former president of the Hampstead and Highgate ­Conservative Association has left £20million in his will.
Sir John Loveridge, an MP who also ran two private schools in Hampstead, died last year at the age of 82. His will, published this week, revealed the huge legacy. But Sir John was more than a wealthy businessman: he was regarded by friends as a polymath.
He was a keen painter and a talented sculptor – two disciplines he turned his hand to after leaving Parliament in 1983.
I was interested to find out the details of his will, and wonder if any local causes had benefited.
It is hardly a surprise to this column that he managed to amass such a fortune. Sir John bought the 1,800-acre Bindon House estate in Devon in 1962 and owned other properties. He ran the now defunct St Godrics business and secretarial college before branching out to Devonshire House and Lyndhurst House schools.
The beneficiaries of the will have yet to be made public, but when I spoke to his son, Michael, I was told Sir John made a number of bequests to various charities during his lifetime.

Barb Jungr sings at the Almeida

YOU would be entitled to raise an eyebrow if I told you that Jacques Brel might be in the audience for Barb Jungr’s performance at Islington’s Almeida next Tuesday: the French singer has been dead for 30 years.
Yet it would not be the first time that Jungr (pictured) has been in commune with the spirits.
The winner of two New York awards told me recently that she had recorded her latest album at the behest of none other than Nina Simone.
“I felt somebody hitting my shoulder and saying ‘What about me?’ and it seemed to me to be Nina Simone,” she said.
Another time she felt the presence of Jacques Brel in the audience while she performed his song Les Marquises.
Ms Jungr’s show at the Almeida last year was a complete sellout; this year she’s back by popular demand with her much-requested cabaret repertoire of Brel, Leo Ferre, Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan.
It’s little wonder. Ernest Hecht, owner of the Souvenir Press publishing imprint in Bloomsbury and a mentor to the singer, tells me that Barb is without question “the most versatile chanson singer in the country”.
Seats are sure to be snapped up.

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