This year’s Belfast Festival at Queen’s attracted some big names to their talks programme. Here St Etienne offers his assessment on three of this year’s big setpiece events: a talk by Lord Ashdown; a panel debate on Carson’s Legacy; and the National Anthem theatre production.
By St Etienne
Paddy Ashdown had his chat in a packed out Elmwood Hall – first time I’d been in the place – and as you can imagine he’s a very comfortable, but comfortable speaker. Kicked off with an excerpt from his new book! about his time in Bosnia – on the one hand containing his best achievement in life and the worst the very next day. His time in Bosnia obviously deeply affected and influences him.
I’m happy to report the Donaghadee man’s greatest smile of the night came as he recounted his days as a young officer in the Royal Marines and then again when he moved on to his time as an operator in the SBS. But what was insightful in all this, as the audience watched a man who it is assumed is now away from the frontline of world affairs, was his responses to questioning. They were not the answers you associate with someone looking back at the end of their career, which while sometimes humorous – “In your time at Westminster who do you think would make the best MP?” “ME!” – also struck me as being sincerely looking to the future, the next challenge.