A Bit of Simon Fanshawe

27On Friday I attended a very interesting event on the University of Sussex campus. This was arranged to mark the forthcoming end of the term of office of the current Chair of Council of the University of Sussex, Simon Fanshawe (left). Simon Fanshawe OBE is, of course,  a well-known radio and TV broadcaster, award-winning comedian and co-founder of the campaigning organization Stonewall. He also has an interesting taste in suits, and provided evidence of that in his outfit on Friday. But enough of matters sartorial. Simon has been Chair of Council for six years, and served as a member of Council for as many years before that, so really has contributed a huge amount to the University over that period. I think it’s safe to say that he has had a much higher profile in his role as Chair than most of his counterparts in other UK universities, so the idea of having a special event in his honour was thoroughly well justified.

First we had a series of three short lectures by Sussex on various issues relating to equality and diversity and how their relate to power and governance. More specifically these were talks about female islamic religious leaders, the nature of political corruption and attitudes to it in different countries, and a particularly fascinating talk by Robert Livingston that touched on many things, including how facial features seem to correlate with success in leadership positions.

After that there was a wine reception and a nice dinner with lots of stimulating conversation. For some reason a major topic on my table was bell-ringing, and why English church bells sound so different from those in continental Europe. I wrote some stuff about that years ago, while I was teaching probability, and may blog about it in future. Everyone else seemed to head home via taxi after dinner, but I wobbled off to the bus stop and got the trusty No. 23 back to Kemptown.

Anyway, I may post later on about some things that popped into my mind as a result of the talks and the subsequent discussion and conversation but for the time being I’ll just mention a very tenuous link with Simon Fanshawe that involves taking a little trip down memory lane. The picture below was taken in either 1988 or 1989 (I’m not very good at dates). It shows me and my partner at the time, Roger, preparing to act as volunteer waiters at a fund-raising dinner (somewhere in Lewes if I remember correctly) organized by the Communist Party of Great Britain:


I wasn’t involved very much in campus politics when I was a graduate student at Sussex (from 1985 to 1988) or a postdoctoral researcher (1988-90) because I found most of it depressingly puerile and short-sighted, that being especially true of the sizable lunatic fringe which also had a disagreeable taste for mindless vandalism. Sadly, times haven’t changed in that respect. I did, however, during that time become an avid reader of magazine called Marxism Today which I thought contained the most incisive political writing of the time and which therefore prompted me to join the CPGB, and eventually became Branch Secretary until I left for London in 1990. Incidentally the Cee-Pee-Gee-Bee decided to dissolve itself as a political party in 1991 and became a sort of leftist think-tank called Democratic Left.

Anyway, the point about that photograph is that the after-dinner speaker on that occasion was none other than Simon Fanshawe, although I doubt if he remembers!

2 Responses to “A Bit of Simon Fanshawe”

  1. Mark McCaughrean Says:

    Interesting: I had lost track of Mr Fanshawe completely, although given the success he’s had, it can only be because I haven’t been trying.

    I met him in 1983 when I was moonlighting from my PhD as a photographer for the Edinburgh Festival Times. We divvied up daily assignments to photograph various performers in the official festival or the Fringe, either during their performances or out and about in Edinburgh, and then spent the night in the dark room developing the negatives and making prints for incorporation into the next day’s (week’s?) newspaper.

    Simon was one of three comedians in a show called (I think) “Three in a Bed”; Jenny Lecoat (who is now a screenwriter living in, umm, Brighton 🙂 was one of the others, but I’m afraid the name of the third (another man) evades me (more on him below, though).

    I went around to the flat where they were staying to photograph them and, given the name of the show, it was obvious that they should all be in bed together. A long funny debate ensued over who should be next to who, given that Jenny’s female, Simon’s gay, and the other bloke was straight. I have the negatives somewhere still; I should get them out and make scans.

    I then also went to photograph their show and because it was so well done, I went back with some of my flat mates again, this time just as a punter, but still went backstage after. So for a brief couple of days, I got to know Simon, Jenny, and the other chap quite well, but of course, that was that.

    Unfortunately, I can’t remember any of Simon’s jokes from that time, but one of Jenny’s has stuck with me forever, and comes to mind quite often when I see idiot males in their BMW’s on the motorway. She characterised a car as “a prick with a dashboard”.

    The unnamed third comedian did his whole part dressed just in a bedsheet and it was a rather unnerving blend of comedy and menace. Woe betide anyone sitting in the front row who he picked on for the final part of his act; in a small dark theatre space, it was genuinely scary as he gradually but unerringly got closer and closer to his chosen victim while retelling dark stories of murder and mayhem.

    At the end of his set, as he was within inches of the face of the terrified victim, staring him in the eyes, his last line was delivered extremely slowly and in a very low voice: “I … could … kill … … … for a bag of chips” (or something similar).

    But I digress; thanks for filling me in a little on Mr Fanshawe’s subsequent career and provoking this nostalgia-fest 🙂

  2. […] I thought I’d pick up on a topic I mentioned in last week’s post about Simon Fanshawe, about University […]

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