60 seconds with ... Piers Plowright

Piers curated the Words part of the Hampstead Arts Festival until 2015 and will be back in a future season to play jazz piano!

Who or what have been your major career influences and why?
Listening to BBC Radio Drama as a child. Going to the theatre from the age of 8 and trying to copy Laurence Olivier, Robert Newton, and Richard Burton. Acting at school and university. Drifting into the British Council where I discovered the pleasure of directing radio and TV drama in Africa. Realising that real life was even more interesting than fiction and becoming a radio documentary maker.

Who has been your favourite interviewee at HAF?
Ali Smith in the 2015 HAF

Who would you like to have interviewed but never got a chance to?
Igor Stravinsky (if I’m allowed the dead as well as the living) or Mary Beard (asked but not available)

What was your favourite moment or event during your time with the Hampstead Arts Festival?
The screening of Buster Keaton’s The General in with live piano accompaniment (by Matan Porat), when I became a child again.

How did you end up living in Hampstead?
I was born here and I’ve lived here all my life apart from 4 years in Africa and 3 years in St Margaret’s Twickenham.

What other places in the world have special meaning to you?
East Coast of Norfolk which I love as a landscape and where my Plowright ancestors came from. Tailloires on the Lac d’Annecy, France where I had my best childhood holidays. The island of Kythera, Greece, where I stayed and made programmes. Helsinki, Finland – simply one of my favourite cities.

If, from now on, you could read only two books, which ones would they be?
The two books I’d keep to read and re-read are Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time (slight cheat as this is really 12 books) and Victory by Joseph Conrad.

Which four figures from the past would you like to have round your dinner table?
William Shakespeare, George Eliot, Albert Einstein and Colette

What was your favourite subject at school?
History. I had a remarkable teacher, Bill McElwee (at Stowe School) who taught me how to write and think and that the study of History allows you to examine everything.

In an alternate universe, what other profession would you have gone into instead of being a Media professional?
The other profession I wish I’d followed is music, as a pianist.

We hear the Everyman Cinema in Hampstead played an important part in cultivating your interest in film.  What are your favourite 10 films?
I went to the Everyman cinema with my dad, a GP whose practice was just round the corner in Church Row, from the age of 8 to 18 (1946 - 1956) and saw everything I was allowed to see (and a few I wasn’t) and that has formed the basis of my film taste. My top ten films (difficult) are, in no particular order:
BICYCLE THIEVES (Vittorio De Sica, 1948]
WILD STRAWBERRIES (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)
THRONE OF BLOOD (Akira Kurosawa, 1957)
THE THIRD MAN (Carol Reed, 1949)
REAR WINDOW (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
DUCK SOUP (The Marx Brothers, 1933)
THE LIFE OF OTHERS (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, (2006)
IDA (Pawel Pawlikowski, 2013)