Thursday 18 January 2018

A very special trip to the British Library

Today I am fulfilling a lifelong dream. Ever since my teenage years, there has rarely been a time when a copy of Kenneth Williams' infamous diaries have been out of my hands or at least on my bookshelf. I first devoured the diaries in the late 1990s, an impulse buy at an airport which turned into essential holiday reading. 

That original copy was read and read again until the spine gave way and it slowly fell to bits. A replacement copy was snapped up at the book stalls by the National Theatre in London and I began my love affair with Kenneth's wonderful writing once again. At once funny, sad, thought provoking and always in his own, unique voice, the diaries are just superb. I have no doubts that Kenneth Williams was the foremost, most prolific diarist of the 20th Century.

When Paul Richardson donated the diaries to the British Library a year or so ago, it felt like the right decision. The British Library is in Kenneth's old manor, King's Cross. He spent pretty much his entire life in that part of North London and the Library's august reputation seems equally fitting. I'm sure Kenneth would have been proud and possibly, a little astonished. And now, finally, I have my reader's pass to go and see some of the actual diaries myself.

Later today I'll be keeping my appointment at the British Library, thanks to Joanna Norledge, the Lead Curator of Contemporary Literary and Creative Archives. Curating and archiving the 40 odd years of diaries is an immense challenge for the Library but they are making a five year period available to me and I'm thrilled. I'll be blogging about my experience and what I learn from having access to Kenneth's own words soon. 

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