Back to the futurist
If LYNNE FRANKS had a Euro for every time she was asked about Ab Fab, she would have, if not seven figures, then easily enough for a villa in Spain. She spoke to Rodger
Evans from her home in Majorca.
anet Street Porter has kidded that she and Lynne Franks used the services of Colonel (iadaffi‘s reflexologist. Not true. The ‘ologist was really a shiatsu practitioner . . . and not in the employ of Libya.
Shame. A flavour of Franks'.’ Vogue once dubbed her ‘the
Zeitgeist' but she has travelled far since her days of
Buddhism and Botox and shopping and spin. In the 80s she
gave us Brylcreeming. Fashion-Aiding. and the idea of
voting Labour. Imagine. She even persuaded them to ‘yoof- ify' and ‘fem-up‘ in an attempt to reach those two rather significant constituencies hitherto overlooked by the Party ofTrade Union masculinity.
She was described as ‘magnificently uncool‘ but with a talent for making clients' product trendy. Since the early 90s though she has sought to shed her PR doyenne status and move beyond the shadow of the PR Satire That Dare Not Speak Its Name. Fabulous while it lasted. but is she over it‘.’ Absolutely.
These days Franks is an effusive grandmother. living her summers in Spain. and taking time out every day to recharge through meditation. Which is not to suggest this impressive human cyclone. having made a fistful of readies from the sale of her PR firm in the late 80s. is resting up.
She expends her considerable energies via newspaper columns and books. as an ‘empowerment guru‘ (a self- mocking self—moniker) and being a ‘leading European futurist' (your guess . . .). The last thing she would have wanted to be asked about today is Fabulously Absolute. So I chose to ask her about it last.
Sometimes it just makes sense to begin at the end. Did she ever think she might get through an interview without being asked about . . . '.’ ‘l was really hoping. I thought so far so good. Hmmm. I think that my family and I. in the right mood. have a funnier time even than what goes on there.~
That is a wee bit scary but don‘t disappear behind the sofa just yet. Funnin enough (perhaps) Franks‘ son Josh Howie is also appearing at this year's Fringe. Having set up his own PR company at the ripe teenage of lo. the late-20s Howie wished ‘to get a proper job' as a stand-up. Catch him on the Carlsberg Comedy Bus.
Meanwhile. back to the subject of la-la land. ‘I hate looking at an interview of me with a picture of Jennifer Saunders. It‘s incredibly old news. Unless Al) Fab suddenly come up with a character who's working around the world on women's empowerment. then I‘ll get a bit freaked out. Ruby Wax. who‘s script editor [and long-time friend of Franks] says how uncanny it is that Jennifer comes up with these things. How could she know about that?~
Erm. possibly because Ruby doesn't ‘do‘ discretion? Admittedly this question does not leave the think bubble. Did I say Bubble? Steady there. Eddie. Oh. mercy. Let us retum to the future. or rather forward to the present.
Published in March. Franks‘ new book is GROW. It stands for Gorgeous Real Original Women. Seriously. But keep in mind that the author is billed as someone who can sell spirituality to corporate America. Your point. caller? Well. maybe. just maybe. pushing self-help to us helpless selfish types isn't quite as tricky as might appear.
Still. may one suggest the essence of GROW is be-all-
you-can-but-in-a-nice-way‘.’ ‘That‘s over-simplifying dreadfully. lt talks about the feminine way of doing things and looks at everything from work. relationships. parenting. health. spirituality. community. and how we can bring it all together . . . I‘ve worked with women all over the world and what I've learnt in the last l2 years has gone into that.’
Time for the Elvis question — these are cynical times. but what’s so funny about peace. love and understanding?
'lt‘s about connection. The subtitle is connecting with self. lovers and others. And through connection. understanding. and through understanding. creating a more peaceful environment. globally and locally. There‘s a different way of doing things and I don‘t think the world reflects the high potential of men or women right now.‘
There was talk of a sequel. a life handbook for men. I proffer a title. GROW UP? ‘You put the words in my mouth! I was playing around and I said I would call it BLOOM because that was Beautiful Loving Orgasmic Original Man.‘ Evidently Franks is not a cynic. She may have made her name in a cynical profession — difficult to consider PR in any other shade - but ironically her disposition must have fed that success. ‘That was a bit of it. I am creative and the people that I employed were creative so we did a lot of things that were fun and different. But I always worked from a place of reality. of authenticity. We instigated an awful lot of initiatives which I still do with what I do now.’
OK. can pop psychology change somebody‘s life'.’
‘The only person who can change your life is yourself.‘ Perfect answer. ‘I've been and done it and I‘ve made the mistakes and got the T—shirt . . .‘
A Katherine Hamnett or Vivienne Westwood creation. I wonder? ‘ . . . I‘ve got the tools I can give people to start on theirjourney. Perhaps I can go in there with the inspiration: you can do anything you want and you can be anything you want — in business or the community. I think we‘ve all got to leam that this century is about going from the Me to the We Generation. And if you want to call that psychobabble. fine.’
It is easy to dismiss some of these utterings as complacent bourgeois piffle but. in fairness. Franks‘ New Age tendencies. even in PR days. have been balanced by work with the likes of Amnesty. Big Issue and Oxfam. More recently. placing what she does in the realm of reality rather than frothy rhetoric. she has worked in South Africa. Sarajevo and the Middle East.
‘I facilitated a group of women from the townships. with little education and in some cases from very abusive backgrounds. who have created initiatives in communities where they're looking after thousands of children from HIV/AIDS families. This was teaching them about looking after themselves because they're giving so much they don't have anything left inside and eventually they burn out.‘
What's more . . . ‘Seeing these women create such incredible change has been humbling. Truly. Bringing their stories back is the real value of my work. If PR is telling stories then. yes. I‘m a storyteller again. You can take the girl out of PR but you can't take the PR out of the girl.‘
Lynn Franks in conversation with Jackie McGlone, Charlotte Square, 16 Aug, 6.30pm, £8 (£6).
Nurturing homegrown talent or shameless nepotism? Family connections abound at the Festival this year.
. Josh Howie 7": After following in his mother's footsteps by setting up his own PR outﬁt
as a fresh-faced 16-year-old. Lynne Franks' son has now settled down into stand-up comedy. Carlsberg Comedy Bus, until 30 Aug (not 16, 23).
Magnus and Sally Magnusson The former Mastermind
host has retired from the big black chair. but will be reclining in conversation with Icelandic poet Matthias Johannessen in a newly scheduled Book Festival event. Come back in the evening to see daughter Sally discuss their relationship. Charlotte Square, Wed 25 Aug,
12.30pm 8 6.30pm. Monty and "' Sarah Don
Find out why green-fingered Monty and his wife traded jewellery for geraniums following the failure of their old business. Charlotte Square, Sat 28 Aug, 6. 30pm.
"" V, The Vlau I. Vlau Sisters Set to take an
, early lead in I the 2004 V ' notoriety
stakes. these all-singing, all- dancing siblings are tempting punters with the vibrant world of vaudeville. Enough to make their mum very proud. I'm sure. Pleasance Courtyard, until 30 Aug, 5.40pm.
Palesa ’ A real family effort: partners Pierre Beziers and Florence Hautier are behind this adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's stow of a Scottish trader’s exploits on a Paciﬁc island. They've even roped in son Martin to compose the music. Aurora Nova @ St Stephens, until 21 Aug (not 17), 1.30pm until Aug 16, 10.30pm Aug 18-21.
12—19 Aug 2004 THE LIST FESTIVAL MAGAZINE 23