Literary credibility at last! The Joy of Essex was discussed by a Highgate book group in the grand sounding venue of the Highgate Scientific and Literary Institution on Monday. As Ian Dury once sang: "I could be the inmate in a long-term institution…" And now this exiled Essex Man was appearing in a Literary Institution… and very impressive too with its portraits and armchairs.
Laurens Holve presented a fine introductory paper on The Joy of Essex, and then the book was put open to discussion. It proved an interesting evening and sparked a lot of debate, with reminiscences of Southend, Epping Forest, Chingford and Constable country. Some of the pop culture references were unfamiliar toy the group, but retired headmistresses in Highgate are now researching Ian Dury, Dr Feelgood, Phill Jupitus and Towie…
One reader who wasn’t that keen on the book did compare it to Chavs by Owen Jones, noting my attempts to not demonise the Essex classes. Several people felt they wanted more on northern Essex, but ultimately I guess the book was more a reflection of the Essex I know rather than a comprehensive guide to every town.
Next month the group is doing a book on Matisse, whoever he played for, so they certainly cover all bases in Highgate. And a nice couple of pints with Laurens and Anne afterwards in the Angel, the pub where Monty Python's Graham Chapmen (Brian) used to drink.