The first Agenda Festival was a rip-roaring success. Hundreds of you joined us at the Hurlingham Club to be thoroughly entertained by irreverent, witty and brilliant speakers including Gyles Brandreth, Harry Mount, Liz Earle and A.N Wilson, and kept up to date with all that later living has to offer by our curated club of handpicked exhibitors.
John Standing, the renowned actor who is 90 next year, kicked off the ‘Now What?’ panel discussion with a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow about the fruits of old age which he pronounced ‘utter b*****ks’; this set the scene for his funny, cheeky and quite ribald look over his life, his time with the greats such as David Niven, and his “absolute darling” Peter O’Toole.
Like many at the festival, Standing does not agree with the idea of ‘retirement’. His advice for a fruitful later life is “keep going even if you fall over and above all, take some form of regular exercise”.
Laurence Geller was happy to take his exercise right there and then. The leading hotelier, philanthropist and Chancellor of the University of West London, who is now 75, was once the England U15’s Triple Jump Champion and he was more than happy to demonstrate how it’s done. Geller had the audience in the palm of his hand as he talked about his ground-breaking research into the links between concussion and dementia and he made a heartfelt plea to the audience, a generation who had grown up in the shadow of World War II, saying, “We deserve the best, we deserve dignity and we deserve to live long and fulfilling lives.”
Julian Sturdy Morton, who owns and runs A Bit Of TLC, the cultural and social club for those who want to get the most out of later life, agreed with this sentiment and said how important it was to remain connected in later life, reminding the audience, “We are tribal animals, and we require the company of others.”
Sarah Standing compared a fascinating travel-inspired discussion on ‘Living It Up’ which focused on trips of a lifetime and learning new skills with Ted Wake, Director of Sales and Marketing at Kirker Holidays, Steven Toy, CEO of language learning tech company Memrise and Ian Ellard, Head of Learning at the V&A.
In ‘Love ‘em or Hate ‘em’, a number of legal, financial and care experts gave some fascinating and invaluable advice on how to find (and trust) the right expert and Anne Cuthbertson, Editor of The London Magazine, chaired a discussion, ‘Hermit or Hermit Crab’ with property and retirement home experts.
The Oldie Gang Show, a discussion between Oldie editor, Harry Mount and two of his star contributors, writers A.N Wilson and Mary Kenny, was a huge hit. A.N Wilson reeled off anecdote after anecdote to a packed audience including an eyebrow-raising story about Harold Wilson’s Foreign Secretary George Brown mistaking the Cardinal Archbishop of Lima with a beautiful girl at an official event at the Peruvian embassy. Mary Kenny regaled listeners with stories of the ‘esprit de corp’ of the old, hard-drinking Fleet Street.
Victoria Mather chaired a fascinating inter-generational discussion with comedian Dane Buckley and Tik Tok star (and Judi’s Dench’s grandson) Sam Williams.
The conversation centred on social media and Mather summed it up rather brilliantly, saying, “The younger generation are the gateway for the old and the bold. If you see them and spend time with them, then the world is not so scary.” Sam Williams said the talk was a fantastic way to mix generations and break down barriers.
There was fantastic lunchtime entertainment from James McConnel and Issy van Randwyck and the Gusbourne English sparkling wine and Sprigster non-alcoholic cocktails were flowing at the bar.
The undoubted star of the day after lunch was the keynote speaker, Gyles Brandreth, who took to the stage after lunch. His energy, humour and work ethic embodies everything The Agenda Festival is celebrating, and he had the room in stitches with stories of his illustrious life and work as an ‘old codger’. His many, many fans in the audience pronounced him ‘quite brilliant’.
It was indeed and we are sure this was the first of many more quite brilliant Agenda festivals to come. Watch this space for news of future plans.