Iain Dale’s ALL TALK political interviews have in recent years become something of a regular fixture of the Fringe circuit. These insights into the most grotesque and – one hopes – unintentional of all entertainments allow us a window into a range of Westminster perspectives: Dale is nothing if not eclectic.
A window into a range of Westminster perspectives
Now well recovered from his nasty hip break a few months ago, Dale stage manages his guests from a simple staging at the EICC, inviting them to tell their stories and engage with audience questions.
Jeremy Corbyn and Len McCluskey may be an appropriate pair to share a stage; but what might have surprised the audience was that their appearance was, primarily, to publicise their new book Poetry for the Many.
There are few public figures to arouse such strong feelings as Jeremy Corbyn. Even now, three years on from his resignation as leader of the Labour Party, his name is inevitably the one trumpeted by opposing sides desperate to score some sort of political capital. It is also the one disenfranchised Labour voters cling to as a life raft on a sea of centrism. But however divided the country might remain about the political merits of this unholy jam maker, manhole cover collector, and peace advocate; it would surely take a churl of monumental proportions to argue that his mission to open poetry to a wider audience is anything other than entirely worthy.
In a forthcoming anthology, Corbyn and former Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey have collated a range of works from the well-trodden to the less known: and an enticing list of contributors include Melissa Benn, Rob Delaney, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Ken Loach, Francesca Martinez, Maxine Peake, Michael Rosen and Alexei Sayle.
Corbyn himself being something of an aficionado of the poetic form is perhaps not wholly unexpected. But that ‘Red Len’, that veteran of the dockyards and serial battle talks, also turns out to be something of a literary old softie is a quite delicious revelation. In a voice cracking with emotion, McCluskey read some of the poems which have touched him personally, illustrating precisely why poetry must not be locked away in a gilded cage but be set free to fly into the imaginations of anyone who cares to engage with it.
There will be something in this volume to touch everyone, regardless of their poetic pedigree: I was particularly interested in the story of the largely unknown Juana de la Cruz, whose seventeenth century poems have a strong resonance today.
And of course, there was something for everyone too in this all-too brief hour with their heroes. It is unlikely that many will fork out to attend this sort of shindig without a keen interest in the speakers, so the success rate among the audience at Dale’s shows, regardless of the guest, is certain to be high. In this case - judging by the reception from the audience and selfie-hunters - sky-high.