Cunard presents... Damian Barr.
Damian Barr is The Sunday Times best-selling author of 'Maggie and Me' and founder of 'Damian Barr's Literary salon'. He talks to Cunard about his experience on Queen Mary 2, plans for 2021 and his most treasured travel gift. Barr lives in Sussex with his partner Mike and chickens Blithe and Dolly.
You headlined last year's 'Literature Festival at Sea'. What did you enjoy the most about travelling with Cunard?
I sometimes dream of being on the ship. Before we travelled, I feared I would be seasick - really feared it but I wasn't, not for a second. In fact, hangovers seemed miraculously eased by the imperceptible motion.
I adored the sense of space on board, the stars at night, the cocktails, everybody dressed up. It was bliss.
What challenges have you faced moving the literary salon to online?
Lock down happened a week before our event at the Savoy. Our 400 guests joined us on facebook and we featured Polly Sampson (with a cameo from husband David Gilmour) John Niven and Pete Paphides.
It was chaotic... but we mastered it quickly!
What I've found interesting about taking the salon online is that people feel more confident asking questions when they don't have to put their hand up in a big room. And the questions they ask are better!
What is the one book to get 'lost in' when travelling?
I don't believe there is one. I think it's fun to match books with the destinations you travel to. But if I had to choose one, I would recommend Diana Athill's memoir of a trip to Florence with her cousin after the war. They didn't have two pennies to rub together but it's just so glamorous. Their enthusiasm, sense of culture and extreme youth lend a charm they fully exploit. Diana was a wonderful writer and edited greats such as Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Rhys. Jean was a close friend of mine and I miss her greatly. The book in question is called, quite simply, 'A Florence Diary'.
What is your most treasured item you have bought or been given on your travels?
I tend to remember people and experiences as opposed to things...but if we are thinking things, I have a pen that was used by the writer Pail Auster who I admire. It ran out when I was interviewing him for The Times - I had asked him to sign a book for me. So I let him use my pen and he kept it and I kept the empty one and I treasure it to this day because of all the genius it made.
Where are you most looking forward to visiting in 2021?
You recently moved to Sussex. Do you have any top tips for visiting the area?
Be sure to catch the bus to Devil's Dyke! Walk along the chalky path south where you can see the sea glittering, then turn north and the whole of Sussex is rolled before you like a great, green carpet.
And finally, what will Christmas look like in the Barr/Moran household?
I'm having my bubble over so we will be six - including a four year old! If I can work out how to use the new oven, there will be turkey...just don't tell my pet chickens. We will have a long walk after lunch, whatever the weather and it'll be champagne in the morning and most probably again in the evening. I hope that you, whoever you are dear reader, have a healthy, cosy Christmas and a prosperous year ahead.