HEARING that Sir Rhodes Boyson had died, at the age of 87, took me back to the days of one-to-one public interviews in Uxbridge, which I’m sure many of you will remember.
These Parkinson-style events were held at The Nave, the weekday name for St Margaret’s Church, which was opened by Margaret Thatcher in 1989.
The sessions were very popular and attracted big names, including politicians like Michael Heseltine and David Blunkett, feminist Germaine Greer, journalist Jeremy Paxman and Nick Park of Wallace and Gromit fame.
When Sir Rhodes Boyson, a very controversial right wing MP and former headteacher, accepted the invitation to be grilled, I was invited to take the Parkinson role.
As the audience had to pay to attend these interviews, they expected not only to be informed, but entertained too. It was quite a commitment but as I had already interviewed John Bird, the editor of The Big Issue, and survived the experience, I said yes.
Sir Rhodes, who had mutton chops long before cyclist Bradley Wiggins made them fashionable, turned out to be very affable, though we did clash on the subject of grammar schools. He wanted the return of selective education but I thought (and still do) that it would be preferable to make comprehensive education better.
As a former ‘grammar grub’ myself, I always felt guilty that some of my friends from primary school felt they were failures because they didn’t pass their 11-plus exam.
However, the eminent scholar and I managed not to get into fisticuffs.
I also interviewed actors Dora Bryan and Keith Michell, and the then director-general of the British Red Cross, Mike Whitlam. Sadly, The Nave eventually stopped these events and my chat show career came to an early end!
■ Mr F and I popped along to Big Fest last week, where we were particularly taken with local band Pimp My Jazz, who performed in front of the Civic Centre.
We need more of this type of high-class stuff in Uxbridge. Singer Lonette Charles’ velvety voice and the jazzy original material written by real-life partners guitarist Gavin Sparks and lyricist Kay Shelley were top notch.