Decca Aitkenhead Meets Grayson Perry – Guardian Open Weekend

With the Guardian Open Weekend having flown by at a depressingly fast velocity, a reflection on the wonderful event seems like a cathartic exercise before the sobering life of a studious student kicks back in.  The weekend, which was held in the main Guardian building and is alarmingly like walking around inside an Apple Mac, was a treat for those interested in pretty much every aspect of life and journalism.  An overview of the whole thing might have been an entertaining read, perhaps even a nice piece of free publicity for those interested in going next year (and for Mr Rusbridger) but one event stood out for this attendee that not only dealt with one of the great of modern artists of our time but also raised questions about the whole process of journalistic interviewing.

Grayson Perry is not a quiet artist.  Famous for winning the Turner prize in 2003 and also for being a vivacious cross dresser, he stands as a perfect interviewee for an art based article.  This event, hosted by the wonderful Decca Aitkenhead (the campaign to get her on Twitter starts here…) was not to be the usual fair of celebrity interview.  Instead, in a marvellously experimental take on proceedings, the event was split into two, allowing for questions to be asked by Guardian website user’s and then opened up to the audience for the second half, allowing the possibility of anything being asked.

This took the questioning to often humorous territory, which was perfect for Perry who clearly thrives on the juxtaposition he inhabits between serious art and tongue in cheek bravado.  In particular relation to such heavy subjects as money, politics and religion, the topics were approached through this silly and often entertaining manner making the answers seem far less controversial than they probably were.  Perry’s famous teddy bear, Alan Measles, also took up a chunk of the proceedings and opened up an interesting and frank discussion on the role and birth of Religion and its symbolism.

Some questions of course didn’t quite work with one audience member in particular finding themselves in an awkward position having assumed that Perry was fluent in the works of graphic novel writer Alan Moore.  This was however a minor blip in an interesting and very successful interview.  Many artists seem to hide themselves from publicity these days, perhaps fearing that the truth behind them will contradict their work and ultimately leave it pointless.  However both the style of this interview and Perry himself showed that this was not the case, and future interviewing of big name artists will surely differ at least in the hallowed pages of Guardian after this wonderful experiment?

Adam Scovell

For Videos of the interview and more coverage of the weekend go to

Images from The Guardian and News RT.


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