Saturday, 22 September 2012

Alan and Tony at Last

A few years ago I attended a conference in London for CASE [the Campaign for State Education], and I got on the lift from ground floor to Floor 3 with politician Tony Benn.  In awe, dumb-struck, goldfish mouth. We got into the conference, a man came up to Tony Benn. He said, "I've been a long-time admirer of yours. Please can I shake your hand." I emailed my friends, "I was in a lift with Tony Benn," My friends wrote back enthusiastically - You got a lift with Tony Benn, from Sheffield, with Tony Benn? What did you talk about? "

Many years later, I was on the train back from London, been to a confererence, called in to collect a collect of pans from Clapton, reading Alan Bennett's Untold Tales, amongst all the rest. Got onto the platform at Leeds, then the concourse,  dragging one steel pan, carrying another, handbag, rucksack - what a mess,  trying to put all the tickets back in their ticket cases, checking purse for busfare, disentangling the ipod's wires etc. And there's Alan Bennett. I'm holding his book and ten other things in my hands.

When Nelson Mandela came to Leeds in 2001, I was doing a steel pan workshop at Parklands High School. Just read Long Walk to Freedom, would have settled to see him in the flesh, but I thought that the school should have a woman workshop leader. Worse, the African dancers who had also come to International Day at Parklands upped sticks and headed for town after the first [and as it turned out only] set in order to dance in front of the great man. Leaving Parklands somewhat disappointed.

About four years after the CASE conference I attended the first big Anti-Academies Alliance conference at Congress House House, Great Russell Street, London. Tony Benn was one of the speakers. I waited till the end, then went over and asked and told him the lift story. He laughed and shook my hand. He said I should have spoken.

Tonight, Debs, this very evening, Alan Bennett did a An Evening with Alan Bennett at City of Leeds School.  I took my copy of Untold Tales. Alan, as I feel I can call him now, signed it. I told him the Leeds Train Story.  He said I should have spoken.

And Debs, I've learnt my lesson. I travel light, put all my stuff into the one bag, and limit myself to one steel pan on public transport. I am ready to shake anyone's hand, but I don't think that Nelson Mandela takes the train to Leeds much.

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