Cross-cultural wire-walking and hot jazz

Only a rich, beautiful fiction such as Candace Allen’s Valaida could have done justice to the eclectic life of black, female jazz trumpeter, Valaida Snow. Allen’s painstaking novel leaps back and forth between Snow’s final performance in New York in 1956 and the formative events that characterised the troubled life of this resilient, complex musician as she blazed her trail from Chattanooga, across the USA, China and Europe.

The author’s vivid evocation of the jazz age - in which Snow rubs shoulder-pads with the likes of Fats Waller and Coleman Hawkins - is striking. But it was the figure of Snow herself that proved the starting point, eight years ago, for Allen’s debut. ‘I wanted to deal with issues of my then life, which involved a lot of travel and cross-cultural wire- walking, and I heard something say: “Valaida Snow". l was completely intrigued with this small-statured woman who transgressed gender and racial boundaries and covered thousands of miles in pursuit of her own goals without being under the thumb or benevolent sponsorship of some man.’

Allen’s identification with Snow is partly down to her own pioneering (and somewhat chequered) experience as the first African-American female member of America’s Directors Guild. She refers to her last, difficult screenwriting project as ‘Hollywood Nightmare No 2’ and when I ask her if Valaida’s structural complexities are a reaction to the limitations of screenwriting, her response is a resounding: ‘Absolutely!’ Yet, despite the parallels, Allen insists she is not Valaida. ‘What was challenging was realising that she and I were very different kinds of women. The challenge was keeping her true to herself, not making her someone I’d have preferred her to be.’ (Allan Radcliffe)

I 75 Aug, 3.30pm, E7 (E5).

From Hollywood nightmare: to



Mr Gorgeous puts the boot into New Labour

Disri‘itssed h. oppcr‘ents as the Member for Baghdad Central. George Galloway hits :30 iii August. In fact, he strikes the hall centun, the da, before his appearance at the Book Festival. Don't go along expecting any birthday blues. though. because yOu're more likely to experience what Truman Capote once dubbed the screaming reds. ‘The death of John Smith is one of the most unmitigated disasters to befall the Labour Party.‘ Galloway fulriiinates. ‘Had he lived we'd now be in the second term of a Labour government. which of course we're not. and we cOuId not be in Iraq. I'm absolutely convrnced about that. Smith was a truly great figure and as marked a contrast With his successor as could be imagined'

Yes. it's fair to say that Blair and Galloway are not so close as. say. Tony and that other George. the considerably less gorgeous Dubya. 'New Labour is in soul limbo. If someone like Cook was to make a decrsive break with war and privatisation and that peculiar relationship wrth Bush, then the party might be saved. But I see no hope in that. I think it much more likely that Blair will soldier on and leave in tears like Thatcher.‘ Recommended Reading: /'rn Not the Only One. a colourful spot of New Labour- shredding. Castro- lauding and Telegraph- Suing. (Rodger Evansl I 77Aug, 3pm, £7 (£5).

CLAIRE DOWIE From stage to page, with no going back

Claire Dowre has been here before. Back in the day. she did stand-up with Jenny Eclair. ROry Bremner and others. But. she notes wryly. when comedy took off ‘l'd decided to go into theatre.‘ Now well


brain‘sght. she‘s 'noxed L)” titltlrl‘ Ht" "'8: “0‘4" Gear ".1 Chaos s the stc". c‘ Chaos. the so" of a “5s vexotitit nah. drop-out. who spreads the anarchist iriessage Dowe finds writing hotels much more liberating than scripting plays. ‘With a play you have to keep it within the budget; usually nothing. You can't go ‘i’ith a book yOu can go miles; ,ou can go into outer space if you want to You can have a cast of millions ' But Dowie hasn't ditched the theatrical past completer as she is bringing her stage experience to her Book Festival appearance. She finds that in theatres the actors 'do the play for each other and for the director. The last thing is the audience. But you wrn or lose depending on the audrence.’ So she wants to bring the crowd back into the novel as well. Instead of just reading passages. which she finds ‘lazy'. Dowre is gorng to perform the book; stand it off the page.’ Recommended Reading: Creating Chaos. the stOry of love. anger. conseguences and a community's iconic first-born son. (Anna Shipman) I 75 Aug, 8.30pm, [‘8 (£36).

TONY BENN Pipe-puffing philosophy and quality quipping

Having released a greatest hits CD. a collection of his oratOry set to musrc, here is a Hornbyesoue t0p five of quotes and guips from or about Tony Benn. Firstly, Harold Wilson opined that TB had ‘immatured With age‘. Secondly. in 2001 aged 76. Benn left the House of Commons in order ‘to spend more time With politics'. Thirdly. as an original supporter of the anti- apartheid movement. he observed: ‘When I first met Nelson Mandela he was a terrorist; when l next



for BOOKS REVIEWS see non-festival magazine

sav. "irn he was a Nol‘el l"‘.'e winner and the presxte'it o? South Aliit‘tl'

Fourtth o't the class I H‘l‘. :2ot‘lt‘l\ inqiudes per lltle who think the\ are better than others \‘ characterises Britain :; that those who are supposed to he |lll(?l|i ii

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have been persuaded that they actually are lhere is no more depressing f;()(‘.lill phenomenon than thrs.‘ l ilthly and lllliill‘. “The big question toda, is: Will globalis‘iation allow democracy to SLII‘.’l\.’(,‘/:). Recommended Reading: Aigiiriierits For Socialism, delinitely not for Phoney lonys (Rodger Fvansl I 7(iAiig, ll.(i‘()arn, {‘7 (f‘Si,

ROB PENN Peat-cutting and kilt- swirling from Celtic adventurer

He's a strange one. that Bob Penn. Sitting in a bar in Belfast disct ssing his debut literacy trip. The Sky is Fa/lirig on Our Heads, he reveals he's Visited the Emerald Isle to try his hand at peat-cutting. Resisting the urge to ask for (at least) the seventh time why he would want to partake in, or indeed write about. such a thing, we revert back to the inspiration behind The Sky. . .. an amusing expose of Penn's own trek around the UK to discover his Celtic heritage. ‘My intellectual mission Wllll the book was to do my bit to fight the strong sense that no one actually knows anything ab0ut the Celtic fringe.~ says the Isle of Man bom writer. 'I wanted to provrde a funny. interesting inSight into the preconceptions people have about my cultural landscape.’ And what Wlll the audience make of his star turn? How does he imagine this work will translate to a Festival crowd? ‘God knows QUite what they'll think when I come Gaming in,