ANYONE walking the city’s Walls last Sunday afternoon might have had a close encounter with one of the country’s top comedians.
David Mitchell – star of Peep Show, That Mitchell and Web Look, QI, Mock the Week and Would I Lie to You? to name but a few of his successes – was in the city to promote his autobiography, Back Story: A Memoir, at this year’s Essar Chester Literature Festival.
Mitchell decided to take in the city’s sights before his appearance before a packed audience at Chester’s Town Hall that evening.
Interviewed by Alex Clifton, artistic director of Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre, Mitchell said walking every day had helped his chronic back pain, hence his book title.
The funnyman, whose comedy is fuelled by his irritation with everyday occurrences, was asked what had annoyed him about Chester.
He said: “I was annoyed because two parts of the Walls were inaccessible and I had to walk down and back up again. I was convinced that they must be the BEST parts of the Walls and I was missing them!”
Mitchell’s interview was just one of 50 festival events over 17 days, which included the week-long children’s literature event GobbleDeeBook.
Another festival highlight was an appearance by London 2012’s national treasure Clare Balding talking about her new autobiography My Animals and Other Family to a sell-out crowd at Chester Racecourse.
Fresh from a visit to Clwyd Special Riding Centre, the Channel 4 racing pundit charmed the 500-strong capacity crowd with tales from last summer’s Olympics, life in the racing world and her privileged and eccentric childhood as the daughter of the Queen’s racehorse trainer.
Lucky University of Chester student Stacey Warner managed to get Balding to sign her trainer, part of her iconic London 2012 Games Maker uniform.
Janet Thorniley listened to Booker Prize nominee Will Self at the close of the festival on Monday night and said: “I have always been a fan – partly for his offbeat sense of humour, but mainly because he just makes me think.”
The city’s 23rd festival, hailed a success by organiser Chester Performs, was placed in jeopardy in September when Chester Festivals, originally behind the project, went into voluntary liquidation.
Figures issued by Chester Performs on Tuesday show sales up by 60% on 2011, with 7,500 people attending.
Festival manager Paul Lavin said: “There’s such an appetite in Chester to see these types of events.”