The Judge, The Professor and the Actor
Indians in World War One
Ilkley's 17-day Literature Festival offers a dazzling array of speakers at more than 240 events. Yesterday, I attended three of them.
Santanu Das held his audience spellbound with an account of his new book, India, Empire and First World War Culture. He welcomed the opportunity created by the centenary of the ending of WWI to highlight the contribution made to the war by hitherto unrecognised groups. His account of the 1.7 million Indians who fought for the European nations is based upon a wide range of artefacts because most of the Indians were not literATE but they did come from literARY cultures and cultures that were rich in other ways. Film, recordings of songs, displays of dance & wrestling, letters written by scribes, etc. all formed part of his fascinating, intellectually-compelling and unsentimental presentation.
Judge James Hanratty talked about his publication The Making of an Immigration Judge. He has undoubtedly made an immense impact in his humanisation of immigration litigation, not least by identifying girls at risk of FGM as a separate class, who should not be returned to countries where they might be in danger of mutilation. He did, however, provoke controversy by employing some of the cultural stereotypes which he had denigrated in his more formal commentary in humorous asides. The talk ended with a devastating criticism of Brexit - both the consequences of the misguided decision and the utter incompetence of those conducting the process.
In the evening, Michael Pennington's one-man show, Sweet William, was an irresistible celebration of Shakespeare's genius. The blend of biography, history, personal recollection and the performance of some of Shakespeare's most memorable lines was unforgettable.
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