Boateng and Pearson talk books

Paul Boateng joined actor and bibliophile Neil Pearson at Hay Festival to discuss how books have shaped their lives.

Both said that the habit of reading was engrained at a very young age. 

Boateng, who became the UK's first black Cabinet Minister, recalled going to the first dedicated children’s library in Sub-Saharan Africa, which was created by what is now known as Book Aid. He said “I owe a lot to Orlando the Marmalade Cat and The Secret Seven”.

Pearson said he didn't remember reading all the classics but described going to the library as an act of pilgrimage.   He said he found reading a form of “escapism” and “a happy place”.

They took it in turns to read extracts from books that had had an impact on them, such as Kipling, A. A Milne and A.A Gill.

Both Pearson and Boateng work with Book Aid International, which “helps get books to people who don’t have them”.  Pearson told the audience how Book Aid last year sent one and a quarter million books to 25 different countries, which has reached an estimated 20 million readers.

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Picture by Chris Athanasiou