Boy, that was a busy day. I got an early train into London to record “Start the Week” with Andrew Marr (more on that to follow in a later blog). I then headed off to a club in Piccadilly to film an interview with Victoria, a young film school student. She had asked me for an interview for a piece of work that would be graded for her diploma course as she wanted to get into documentary making. I figured that as I was in London and she had been so insistent that I would help her out. It was all a bit surreal as we shot the interview in the “Jewel” which was like some weird Gothic themed bar. I think the camera man that turned up was her dad. We all tried to figure out how to mount the camera and drown out the noise of the music that the bar owner had decided to have on. After many takes, I think she had enough to edit together. Victoria was very enthusiastic so I hope the afternoon’s filming gets her a good grade.After that it was a quick dim sum in China town, a meeting with the wonderful Abby and Lucida at the Cassaroto agency and then back on a train to Bath to pick up the car and then drive through to see the Ben Goldacre perform at the Festival of Ideas in Bristol.
Ben is a star… an angry young man, but one who has a vision and passion that completely enthralled the audience. I felt like Lester Burnham in “American Beauty” when he encounters the enigmatic Ricky Fitts, a young self-assured man who is confident in his position in life. Ben was spell-binding and I have to say that he was a sensation. Ben knows how to work a crowd but it was his ability to navigate the talk through humour, ridicule, pathos and outrage that made him so utterly compelling to watch. I was awe-struck.
Ben is angry about the injustice that he sees operating under the guise of pseudoscience and he has a particularly barb for the alternative healing industry which has wreaked such havoc in South Africa, in the recent HIV and AIDS denial movement. This is no opportunistic journalistic swiping. The lawsuit brought against Ben and the Guardian cost over £500,000 to defend. He is bitter but for very good reason. Driving Ben over to Bath, I learned that this had come at some considerable degree of personal cost. It’s never nice to be hated and to have people try to bring you down but for Ben, the price of giving into the quakery was too much. This blurry photograph is the only one I have of the evening at his book signing but the 400+ audience were all on his side. I think this young man deserves some praise.
Anyway, whatever got up Ben Goldacre’s nose was dislodged in that drive through to Bath and I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed with this impressive chap. I wonder if I could have had that energy or drive and frankly the balls to challenge the establishment when I was his age. I’ll never know but Ben Goldacre is one of my heroes for doing something the rest of us would rather avoid. I predict he is destined for bigger things and I will be cheering him on from the side lines.