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This report is taken from PN Review 147, Volume 29 Number 1, September - October 2002.

Learning to Read Cherie Booth QC

On 17 June Cherie Booth Q.C. opened the Literatures of the Commonwealth Festival in Manchester with the following speech at the Gala Fundraising Dinner for Commonwealth Bursaries and Scholarships in the Great Room of Manchester Town Hall.

T.S. Eliot declared that there is no competition between writers. Admittedly, by the time he said that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize.

But this great Literatures of the Commonwealth Festival is happily and genuinely a non-competitive prelude to the Commonwealth Games. It includes major writers at the height of their careers, some of them here with us tonight; and it includes writers who are just starting off. It has been organised by the young Writing School of the Manchester Metropolitan University, and its aim is to create bursaries and scholarships so that more writers from the Commonwealth can attend its programmes. Two Commonwealth students, from Uganda and from Zimbabwe, are here this evening. If this ambitious Festival is repeated in ten years' time, there may be a dozen or more.

While literature and sport may be seen by many as very different entities, the passion for literature and the passion for sport can develop in tandem, most notably among Commonwealth writers such as C.L.R. James from Trinidad who writes, for example, about reading Thackeray's Vanity Fair first at about eight years old and not knowing that this was a classical novel but loving it, re-reading it some twenty times or more. Literature and cricket ...

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