I was very sad to hear of the death of playwright and Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter yesterday.
Pinter was one of those rarest creatures in the British artistic establishment, someone who believed it was imperative to speak truth to power. Nothing made that clearer than his acceptance speech for his Nobel Prize in December 2005, made at a time when he was already seriously ill.
My clearest memory of Pinter is his performing his own sketch Press Conference at the Lyttleton theatre in February 2002. Pinter played the former Head of the Secret Police in an unnamed dictatorship who has become Minister of Culture, giving a press conference in front of a group of supine journalists:
“We believe in a healthy, muscular and tender understanding of our cultural heritage and our cultural obligations. Those obligations naturally include loyalty to the free market … Cultural dissent is acceptable – if it is left at home. My advice is – leave it at home. Keep it under the bed. With the piss-pot.”
How the great and the good of our own British cultural establishment must have squirmed at that one. He will be sorely missed.