Our MP reflects on "a joyous Aylesbury institution", the yearly WhizzFizzFest
David Lidington writes:
In recent years the annual WhizzFizzFest has grown into a joyous Aylesbury institution. It started as a celebration of local author Roald Dahl (if you've not yet visited the Dahl museum in Great Missenden, do go!) but has now broadened out into a kind of literary festival for children.
At one level, it’s a great day out for families: from the opening children’s parade to street entertainment, public readings and the chance to meet leading authors. But it's also an opportunity
to remind ourselves of the pleasure and sense of personal enrichment that comes from reading, and the importance of starting that habit young.
It’s become commonplace to say that we'e now living in a world where people get both entertainment and information in ever smaller bites from the likes of Instagram, Twitter or
It's pointless railing against social media - it's a fact of modern life, but I do't accept that it makes books or poetry obsolete. Tweets, sound bites and images inevitably condense and simplify what in real life may be complex and nuanced.
A novel, story or poem can offer a depth of characterisation and a sense of the ambiguity that is an inherent part of human life. That’s true even of books written for young children.
Read Michael Rosen's “We're Going on a Bear Hunt” (preferably with a group of six year olds chanting with you) and then ask whether we are meant to see the bear as threatening or (look at Shirley Oxenbury’s final illustration) lonely and sad.
Dahl’s children's books and poems mix laughter and cruelty. And many of the old children's classics: Peter Pan, Treasure Island, Mary Poppins are much less saccharine than we usually
remember or see reproduced for the screen.
Many years ago, Douglas Hurd, Foreign Secretary under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, told me he tried to read something every day that was nothing to do with politics or work, even if just for ten minutes before falling asleep “to remind me that there's a life outside”. It's advice I try to follow.