Harold Pinter celebration dinner

On Monday 5 February PEN held a very special evening in honour of Vice President Harold Pinter, awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005 when the Swedish Academy paid tribute to a writer whose work ‘uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression’s closed rooms’. The evening took place in the suitably grand and unique surroundings of Cumberland Lodge, of which PEN’s President Alastair Niven is Principal. Guests enjoyed a tour by Alastair’s wife Helen of the splendid seventeenth-century house, now occupied by the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Foundation of St. Catharine’s. The Lodge was once home to the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough in the eighteenth century and in 1936 was the setting for crucial talks in the Abdication crisis.


Following a champane reception in the Lodge’s Tapestry Hall, guests were treated to an entertaining and moving set of readings in the Drawing Room by special guests Alan Rickman, Lindsay Duncan and Michael Pennington, whose wonderful performances brought Pinter’s unmistakeable and unique writing to life. The readings included Request Stop by Lindsay Duncan, Alan Rickman as Mick from The Caretaker, Act 3 and recitals of the poems Death, Poem (Don’t Look…) and To My Wife by Michael Pennington. 



Moving to the Cumberland Room a delectable four course menu was served and much enjoyed by all. As dinner drew to a close Alastair Niven said a few words in honour of Harold, his career and all he had done for PEN, including most recently adding his support to the vigil in memory of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, tragically murdered in January. Harold thanked all who were present and expressed his ongoing concern for writers and free speech around the world. After his speech, Harold’s wife Lady Antonia Fraser was presented with a bouquet of flowers by Alastair Niven. Carole Seymour-Jones, chair of the Writers in Prison committee, took the opportunity to announce plans for a PEN/Pinter prize, awarded to defenders of freedom of expression, of which more information would follow in the near future. 



After further merriment the evening drew to an unwelcome close and those not staying for the night made their way back to London.


All proceeds from the evening will go towards PEN’s work in defence of writers and free expression, a cause so important for Harold as for all of us.

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/events/reportsonrecentevents/haroldpintercelebration/

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