Obituary: Linda Brandon
Monday 06 July 1992
LINDA BRANDON was the woman who persuaded Vaclav Havel to launch an Eastern European literary forum during his state visit to London, the woman who raised the airfare to bring the little-known playwright Ariel Dorfmann to the Institute of Contemporary Art to read his even less-known play Death and the Maiden for a season of censored theatre. She then invited Dame Peggy Ashcroft, John Berger and Harold Pinter to the reading and what followed, as they say, became history.
For Brandon, the word 'impossible' not only had no meaning, it was an incomprehensible concept. As she sized up to some of the world's greatest writers and thinkers, whether on the phone or at a party, to insist that they come and talk at the ICA for the usual derisory fee, there would never be any doubt in her mind that they might refuse. They rarely did. Her tenacity - and at times audacity - was breathtaking. This was the measure of the person that I knew as Director of Talks at the ICA. On one occasion she camped for six hours in the lobby of a London hotel waiting to collar an American author whom she thought would make a perfect chairwoman for a conference she was planning.
It was not her single-mindedness alone that won people over; always present was a wit and an intellect that could strip paint when required, but would also engage and beguile. She used to tell the story of a famous British writer who, after giving a lunchtime talk, eventually got her alone at one end of the bar and said imploringly: 'I'm a busy man, I'm 65 years old, I'm catching the 5.40 train but you are my vision of perfection and we must have sex now.' Unrequited, he caught an earlier train.
It would be misleading to remember Linda Brandon simply as an extraordinary organiser of talks and literary events. After obtaining a BA in English Literature at St Hilda's College, Oxford, and then an MA in French Literature at Paris VIII Vincennes University, she became Literature Officer for the GLC and a policy analyst in their Arts and Recreation Department. Before joining the ICA in 1988, she read and edited for various publishers including Cape, Serpent's Tail, Radius, Quartet and Century Hutchinson and reviewed for the Literary Review, the Independent and Books Magazine.
She wrote, debated and interviewed with equal passion and scholarship, and she and her partner Margo were usually the most interesting couple to talk to at social events; but it is the literary event that she finalised just two days before her death that will also be her outstanding legacy. Globe '92, London's first major international writers' forum, is a staggering programme of colloquies with over 100 of the world's foremost authors that she conceived and organised for the ICA and Waterstones. This important forum launches its second season in September in her memory and as her lasting achievement.
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