Watch out Hay on Wye, there’s a new bookish bonanza on the calendar. City slickers may be well acquainted with Gibraltar; its bookies, its brokerages, its yachts and its tax laws. With the small British outpost seeing 50 per cent GDP growth in the last four years, it’s becoming something of an economic powerhouse, but when it comes to the arts some folk may view it as more of a barren rock.
Enter the Gibraltar International Literary Festival, where diplomats and cultural giants flocked last week to show there’s more to Gib than fish ‘n’ chips and frosty neighbours.
The festival, which ended in a moreish feast of Middle Eastern cuisine last night, saw the likes of acting icons Maureen Lipman and Nicholas Parsons giving their two cents on literature and education to Barclays bosses and Gibraltar’s leading politicians.
Even City A.M.’s Jens Torpe weighed in with a panel discussion on the fate of print news in the modern age. With our own rag being printed over 100,000 times each day, we’d like to think the odds are in our favour.
Despite the list of speakers being studded with icons, it was Parsons, whose portfolio includes everything from Benny Hill to Carry On, who was left the most star-stricken by an encounter with the local clergy. A Catholic priest in attendance of the actor’s talk earlier in the week was so impressed that he approached him afterward by way of congratulation. “For a priest to kneel before me! What an honour!”
There was but one tinge of regret from the whole evening. Due to Gibraltar’s imminent general election at the end of the month, many of the festival’s biggest campaigners didn’t get a chance to go to the festival, or even read any books.
Gib’s education minister Gilbert Licudi lamented that his focus on manifestos and campaigns has meant that he missed most of the events this week and hasn’t even touched the complete works of Game of Thrones that sits on his bookshelves. Ah well, maybe once the campaign’s over...