Listening to the Caitlin Moran and Stuart Maconie talk was like sitting in a pub with friends when the perfect conversation occurs, littered with anecdotes, references and in-jokes. A conversation in which you are so absorbed you don’t want to leave the table, despite a million things happening around you.
Birmingham Book Festival created a faux-pub backdrop for the two writers. Moran and Maconie sat on stools, clutching bottles of water but swigging it like alcohol at a bar. They debated everything from libraries and television to feminism. Both writers brought entirely unique perspectives to the topics they were debating. Moran spoke quickly and confidently and although she used obscure references and phrases, they were neither pretentious nor alienating. Birmingham-based Maconie offered a male viewpoint on topics, such as feminism and sexism within the work place, punctuating Moran’s anecdotes with experiences of his own.
They both started out as music journalists and expressed their views on how the publishing industry has changed. In their day journalism offered a window of opportunity for a teenager with no specific qualifications. In their discussion about the dwindling opportunities of the arts world, the pair also commented on the number of privately educated pop stars who dominate the charts. Both writers were keen to stress that these bands shouldn’t be condemned. However, they expressed concern about the lack of opportunity for those involved in the creative industries without privileges or connections.
Despite this concern, Moran showed a high sense of appreciation for the changeability of contemporary culture. This gives people the opportunity to make things new and undergo personal revolution. Moran celebrated having a voice, be it within her journalism or in her day to day opinions on the mundane. She admitted that when she first started writing she adopted the tone of a Victorian gentleman, writing in a voice she thought others wished to hear, instead of her own. She soon realised that what characterises great writing is originality, and therefore encouraged everyone to express their individuality in whatever they do. You shouldn’t be shy about having an opinion on anything, from the mundane to the important. This seemed particularly relevant regarding the diverse appreciation for arts and culture within Birmingham.
For a full list of Bham Book Fest events: http://www.birminghambookfestival.org/events-2012/full-festival-programme/