An Audience with Meera Syal – part of Birmingham Literature Festival

Mera PickCandice:  Phil and I took a trip into Birmingham this weekend to visit an event I had picked from the Birmingham Literature Festival brochure.  As is always the way with these festivals there are more events that you’d like to visit than there our hours in the day.  I looked through and plumped for this one, partly because it was the saturday after I came back from holiday and partly because I liked Meera Syal.

On the way I did have to pop in to see Grand Central, the new shopping centre above Birmingham New Street, but I have to say it so too busy so I didn’t really get a good nose at John Lewis. I will be back though as it was a very nice setting!

Settling down in the Studio at Birmingham Rep, after woofing a tea and cake (lemon curd muffin, yum!) we sat and listened to an hour of discussion with Meera and her playwright friend Tanika Gupta, talking about converting her book ‘Anita and Me’ in to play, that is currently being staged at the same venue.

What we hadn’t realised was that the piece was being recorded for the Radio 3 Free Thinking programme, so my clapping was an extra on that (I don’t think I get paid for it :)).  Having that focus meant that it the interview had a more serious slant than perhaps some of the other events we have gone to over the years.

Sitting in some lovely high backed leather chairs the three discussed taking a book and making it in to a play, versus a film, something that ‘Anita and Me’ has also had done. I think was obvious to see that Meera wasn’t as happy with the film as the play as she had less control over the final product.  What was interesting was that she didn’t see to have very much involvement in the play being written but obviously trusted Tanika.

There was also a lot of discussion about how ‘Anita and Me’ is now GCSE course work, something that Meera is very proud of.

The next part of the interview was something that Phil and I both struggled to relate to, being white people growing up without prejudice in the 70’s.  There was an extensive discussion about this, at it is also the theme of the book and then it moved on to how being Asian in Britain has effected them and their family right up until present day.

All in all it was an interesting afternoon, mainly because Meera is an interesting speaker.  She put the presenter on the spot at one point as they had cut the Q&A session short and she told him she wanted more!  I can remember reading ‘Anita and Me’ and ‘Life isnt all Ha Ha Hee Hee’ years ago and don’t really remember what they are about, but I do know I enjoyed them.  I think I will be going to look for them in the second hand shop or via the Library to have another read.

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