The Platform for Small Nation Dialogue and Cultural Exchange
This morning on day two saw television presenter and author Bettany Hughes give a rapid fire and beautifully illustrated talk on the great city of Byzantium, later Constantinople and now Istanbul, the true centre of the late Roman empire – multi-named and perhaps the world’s most multi-cultural capital.
Afterwards, in this, the 70th anniversary of partition in India and Pakistan, William Dalrymple hosted a discussion of the enduring consequences resulting from this and how it could have been better handled at the time. Taking part were Sugata Bose, Ayesha Jalal, Rashed Rahman and Ahmed Rashid.
We were then treated to an admirably open interview by first Minister Nicola Sturgeon, talking to the formidable Tina Brown author, presenter and former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. This included illuminating insights into the characters of many leading figures including the late Diana, Princess of Wales, Hillary Clinton and of course, Donald Trump and his popularist strategy. Her strongly held views on the media, especially the pernicious influence of Facebook and its like and the need for more serious outlets, received a sympathetic hearing, as did her view of the current health of the women’s rights movement, especially in the USA (too out of touch with real working women).
The mutual respect evidenced by both women was plain and encouraging to see.
Lunch was taken to the accompaniment of music from singer-songwriter Heidi Talbot.
First in the afternoon was Sir Kieran Prendergast talking to former Obama adviser Salman Ahmed and Mandela cellmate Ebrahim Rasool on the art of peacemaking in the modern world.
This was followed by a discussion on Brexit and its implications for both the UK and for Scotland, chaired by Steve Richards and featuring Professor John Curtice, Lord Karan Bilmoria and Bonnie Greer. Though some useful insights were gained, this subject is still work in progress and likely to be for some considerable time.
Razia Iqbal then chaired an entertaining discussion ‘Women on the Frontline’ with Reem Kelami and Aminatta Forna which covered the themes of resilience and personal identity, perhaps summed up by Aminatta Forna quoting Alexander Pope’s lines:
‘Honour and shame from no condition rise,
Act well your part : there all the honour lies.’
To say that this two-day festival is a success would be insufficient praise. The manifest high ideals behind the idea of the festival itself remain refreshingly uncompromised. The choice and quality of the speakers, the overall skill of the organisers and the quiet efficiency of those behind the scenes combine each year to give this gathering both balance and an intensity and immediacy that it would be hard to beat. It is what it sets out to be: The Platform for Small Nation Dialogue and Cultural Exchange. And long may it continue.