BOOK FESTIVAL – Harriet Walter

Harriet Walter
Monday 27 August 2012

Journalist Jackie McGlone introduced Dame Harriet Walter to the stage in front of a sold-out theatre, and welcoming the actor to the last day of this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival.

Walter is best known as a stage and screen actor who’s many credits include Atonement and Sense and Sensibility – however her appearance at the book festival was to tell the audience of her new role as author.

Her ambitious book ‘Facing it, Reflections on Images of older women’ is a photographic exercise that celebrates the beauty of the older woman.

Inspired one day, by looking at the aged face of her then dying mother – she recognised that she would have to look at her own face and age, and realise that no matter how young inside she felt, she would need to accept what age had done to her. And, as an actor, it was even more important to do so.

She coupled this with the fact that there seemed to be a gap in the market for a book that offered images for middle-aged women to aspire to as they got older. Her literary agent couldn’t find a home for the project, so she sat down on January 8th and by March 8th, National Womens day – the book was written, printed and self-published!

The mainly female audience were initially treated to a visual presentation of her book – images of women from all walks of life. Images from her friend and photographer Jill Kennington which offered famous faces such as Phyllida Law, Bianca Jagger, and Jane Birkin – through to friends, relations and complete strangers.

Walter’s book isn’t just image based and she went on to read from the essays that reflected on women’s experiences of getting old.

“Our faces drop and droop as we get older. It is a law of gravity. Sorrow and worry etch themselves on our brows as well as laughter round our mouths and eyes. They say that after 50 we get the face we deserve but the truth is less convenient than that. Our genes have an equal, if not greater input.
A sweet looking little old lady could be a selfish pain in the .…, a sour-faced granny could break into an adorable smile. I often wrongly judge the mask.”

– Extract from Facing It

Questions from the audience ended the event, and skimmed thought provoking topics such as whether 65+ was just a tick box on an application form, or the infinite horizon from which anything can happen.

Not just an interesting book – but backed up with a website and blog to match.

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