Edinburgh Book Festival: Nicholas Parsons, Tale of the Century

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Nicholas Parsons with Roy Cross as Chairman
Running time

For someone who was born on 10th October 1923 - and still broadcasting actively, one must assume that this puts Nicholas Parsons into the category of being a 'national treasure'! It therefore seemed entirely appropriate that this event was sponsored by 'The Oldie' magazine. Certainly Roy Cross, who was the chairman for the event, found himself with a totally unpredictable speaker who tended to want to do his own thing rather than follow any set pattern for the interview. But Nicholas Parsons is beloved by his audience and whatever he cares to do or say is accepted without question - so for sheer entertainment value the event fully deserved five stars.

For those of us who have seen Nicholas Parsons, perhaps last year, the routine was very similar but nevertheless highly amusing and entertaining. One must remember that his career started more than seventy years ago and he was the long time host of 'Sale of the Century' which attained over twenty one million viewers at the height of its popularity. Parsons explained how he found himself as the chairman of 'Just a Minute' and that Jimmy Edwards had initially been identified as the possible chairman, but Jimmy was never free at a week end when a pilot programme was to be filmed so Parsons stood in and has stayed in the position ever since, except on one occasion when he was a panel member. Any number of famous names have appeared on the show - Beryl Reid, Kenneth Williams, Paul Merton and Clement Freud to name but a few. It was interesting to hear how the participants reacted to the shows they took part in as some were upbeat and others despondent.

During the unscripted discussion Nicholas Parsons claimed that Glenda Jackson was a former 'flame' and also that his father had an 'association' with Margaret Thatcher. However, it transpired that this was only because they had both been born in Grantham!

Nicholas Parsons was also extremely proud of having been elected (rather than simply 'appointed') as Rector of St Andrews University by the students and he revelled in his Honorary Doctorate which he received telling Roy Cross and the audience that they could call him 'Doctor'!

He also said that he enjoyed his charity work with the Lord's Taverners. We were told about his rivalry with Gyles Brandreth over giving the longest after-dinner speech and at one stage he held the Guiness World Record for a speech of eleven hours, however, this has now been reclaimed by Gyles Brandreth.

A good, entertaining hour - the audience loved it and Nicholas Parsons himself. Most also took home a complimentary copy of 'The Oldie' magazine!

Event: 17 August 2015, 1.30pm. Single event.