I spent last weekend at Port Eliot in Cornwall, the only summer festival I’d pay to attend. Indeed, I ended up paying through the nose. Not only did I rent a teepee so that we wouldn’t have to lug our bell tent from the car park to the campsite and back, but I bought Caroline and our four children special wristbands so they could use the ‘posh loos’. I thought she’d get a particular kick out of swanning off with them to do their ablutions in the morning in the lap of luxury while I had to queue up to use one of the Portaloos.
For those who’ve never had the pleasure, Port Eliot is a literary and music festival that takes place on the estate of the Earl of St Germans in the last weekend of July. It’s intimate and charming in a way that few other festivals are, partly because so many of the punters seem to know each other. To give just one example, there were at least half a dozen families there with children at the same primary school that my two youngest go to in Shepherd’s Bush. Even strangers don’t remain strangers for very long. I overheard one woman saying to another, ‘So which part of west London are you from?’
The event I was looking forward to the most was an interview with Bruce Robinson, the writer and director of Withnail and I. The 70-year-old legend was going to reflect on his fascinating career, which began with acting in Franco Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet in 1968, saw him rise to become one of the most sought-after screenwriters in Britain and, after a fallow period, reinvent himself as book writer. He was at Port Eliot to promote They All Love Jack: Busting the Ripper, a work that took him 15 years to complete and which, according to him, definitively solves one of the greatest mysteries of the Victorian era.