Robert Webb spoke openly about childhood and the difficult relationship he had with his dad for most of his life. He commented on the gender stereotypes that can be so damaging to the male mind and how he saw three times over the regret of having missed out on love, friendship, and joy because of them.
The title of his memoir, How Not to Be a Boy, hints at his struggles with the idea of masculinity and naturally the conversation focused on this. He did however also talk about the fact he knew from a very young age what he wanted to do with his life, and despite his shyness was incredibly ambitious. That he has achieved 90% of his childhood aims is heartening and goes to show that no dream is too big.
Literary royalty in the form of Ian McEwan was next on the line-up. Ostensibly there to talk about adapting On Chesil Beach for film, we were also treated to a look back over his career and a reading of a recent, unpublished short story. He spoke of how as a young writer he thought British literature provincial and tame and aimed to shock (though he always denied this when suggested by journalists).
It is important, he believes, not to confuse books such as On Chesil Beach with sociology. They are about particular characters, not representative of all of Britain in the 1960s. Bringing the book to the big screen took several years and two different directors. McEwan believes this to have been a blessing as it meant Saoirse Ronan was the right age to play the lead by the time filming began. He also spoke of enjoying being able to add scenes that perhaps he wished he’d put in the novel.