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Buxton Festival 2010

The 2010 Buxton Festival  season has begun. It opened with an opera last night – Luisa Miller by Giuseppe Verdi; we didn’t go but are being taken by some friends next week which is a treat to look forward to.

The festival for us therefore started this morning with a most stimulating, interesting and amusing ‘conversation’ between Matthew Parris and ‘the Three Explorers’, Ranulph Fiennes, Robin Hanbury-Tennison and John Hare.

The Festival programme explains:

Ranulph Fiennes is holder of several endurance records and the first man to reach both Poles by surface travel.  Explorer and conservationist Robin Hanbury-Tenison has been on over 30 expeditions, and spearheaded the international concern for tropical rainforests.  Founder of the Wild Camel Protection Foundation, John Hare was the first European to travel into the wildest parts of the Chinese Gobi desert.

The very entertaining  hour of ‘conversation’ mostly involved their answering some excellent questions from the floor.  Matthew Parris was hoping to discover what motivates men to tackle some of the most physically demanding journeys in some of the world’s most inhospitable regions.

If I can dare to sum up, the answers were:  excitement, relishing a certain level of danger, scientific research and seeking to find out more about – and to protect –  endangered and rare species and indeed the climate.

All three of the guests were extremely entertaining, very quick and amusing and not in the slightest arrogant about their successes and physical triumphs; not surprisingly Matthew Parris very ably managed, as always, to get the best out of everyone, including the audience.

One of the lovely things about the Buxton Festival is the atmosphere and the intimacy: the Opera House is small by modern standards. I can’t find out the exact number it seats but it must be in the very low hundreds. The excitement is infectious, the guest speakers are always very approachable; this morning – as always –  we almost felt we knew  our speakers at the end of the hour.

After the event his morning many of us, including Matthew Parris,  sat at tables outside the pub opposite the Opera House,  enjoying a coffee or beer while the three explorers  signed books for a long queue of people anxious also to have a quick word with the authors.

And now we look forward to Alastair Sawday talking tomorrow, not about holiday destinations or ‘Special Escape’ self-catering cottages but about ‘Slow Food Britain’ and the global food crisis…

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