Alan Johnson

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

Grab a cup of tea and sit down to enjoy the tales of Alan Johnson, former Labour MP, author and latest addition to Marlborough LitFest 2018!

Johnson has had a fruitful political career, undertaking various positions within the cabinet, including Health, Education and Home Secretary. His memoirs describe a side to his life that anyone following his more recent political career has not been able to see. In his three memoirs, Johnson opens up about his difficult childhood and how his political career began.

His first memoir, This Boy: A Memoir of a Childhood, was published in 2013 and had an overwhelmingly positive reception, with it being awarded the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize the following year. It follows his youth and is largely focused on the strong women in his life who shaped his childhood. His mother, Lily, brought him up whilst dealing with the struggles of domestic violence, poor health and poverty. While Johnson’s sister, Linda, found herself taking on a parental role when she was still just a child herself after the death of their mother.

The Notting Hill which is described in Johnson’s memoirs is very different to the one that we are familiar with now. Gang violence, race riots and slum landlords and just a few of the things that were commonplace during Johnson’s childhood, a stark contrast to the affluent district in West London we know today. The struggles which Johnson, his mother, sister and many of their neighbours suffered was what ultimately brought them together and built the strong sense of community which is seldom seen nowadays.

Johnson’s second memoir, Please, Mister Postman paints a picture of Johnson’s life in the late 1960s and 1970s, of how he moved away from the poverty of the neighbourhood which he grew up in and worked hard as a postman to provide for his wife and children. The Long and Winding Road is the third memoir, looking back at Johnson’s time as a trade unionist, the beginning of his political career and ending with the story of his promotion to Home Secretary.

Following the success of his first three memoirs, Johnson is releasing the music memoir, In My Life, which is due to be published on 20th September 2018. Everyone has certain songs which bring back memories, good or bad, and in this book Johnson shares some of the memories which accompany his favourite music. A world of vinyl record players and jukeboxes, playing Bob Dylan and David Bowie in dance halls and smoky coffee shops. Needless to say, The Beatles also feature, a firm favourite of Johnson’s, whose memoirs are all named after songs by the renowned British band.

We are thrilled to have Alan Johnson at the Marlborough LitFest and eagerly await the publication of his fourth memoir in September.

Anna Wilkinson