Edinburgh Book Festival: Sue Perkins: Baked to Imperfection, Review

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Sue Perkins with Viv Groskop in the chair.
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Comedian Sue Perkins was appearing ostensibly to promote her autobiographical, debut book "Spectacles" which was published in October 2015. However, Viv Groskop who was in the chair, had some difficulty in getting a word in edgeways with the quick-fire banter of Perkins!

Groskop did manage to interject that Perkins had a great sense of humour and, apart from being one of the hosts on the "Great British Bake Off", she had appeared on "Celebrity Big Brother" - where she lasted until day nine - and also on "Have I Got News for You", "Mock of the Week", "QI", "Celebrity Weakest Link", "Newsnight" and "Question Time" among many other shows. Groskop joked that she was just like the cakes she judged, 'warm, crisp and beautifully layered"!

Perkins said that actually she was a shy child although she grew up with her two younger siblings. The family lived in east London, were not academic, but led a normal family life. Her mother was a secretary and her father a car salesman.

She admitted that at the tender age of sixteen she did not know the first thing about sex. Perkins told the story about her appearances in the school nativity play. She asked the Book Festival audience what role they thought she had played the first year. After several guesses someone got it right - the fox! Eventually she was made an angel and this was her opportunity, "to get back into the limelight again!"

She talked a little about her time with Mel Giedroyc, her creative partner whom she met at Cambridge, and the Mel and Sue shows that were a great success on ITV for a while. They were nominated as the 'Best Newcomers' and they also played the Edinburgh Festival.

Things went well until ITV suddenly pulled the plug on the show after just eight months or so. Prior to this she spoke about a programme where the author submits a script and you then have to wait and listen to the programme to see if the script was used. This was fine as long as you are not kept waiting too long - but she was delighted to get a cheque for eleven pounds for her input from the BBC. She said that she thought she still had the cheque as it had never been cashed.

The one thing that changed everything was when Mel had a child - something that Perkins could not do due to the benign brain tumour that she has been living with for some eight years. This changed the way that they behaved to one another but things altered in a good way. Perkins is the Godmother to Mel's child.

Then Perkins talked about conducting Elgar at the Albert Hall which was following her success in the 'Maestro' series; she also conducted the London Lesbian and Gay Symphony Orchestra in Soho. All this led to her taking the baton at the first Comedy Prom during the Proms Season at the Royal Albert Hall which was, in her words, "the most fantastic experience."

More recently, she has been happy to pick up anything and her motto is, "that nothing is too small". But when initially approached to do the 'Great British Bake Off' she refused three times, but eventually agreed to do it. People change, she said and views change over the years. She herself had baked and this had been put to the test with only some of her efforts being seen as up to scratch. She felt that she was actually more suited to a Children's Bake Off!

Speaking about her life as a lesbian she said she was "outed" by her former girlfriend Rhona Cameron on television, however, she is now in a relationship with Anna Richardson.

When asked about her time at New Hall which is an all-women's Cambridge college, she said that she had enjoyed the place but no one should ever be ashamed of what they had achieved - a good lesson to remember.

Spectacles (paperback, July 2016) by Sue Perkins is published by Penguin.