EVENT REVIEW: Sally Bayley: The Private Life of the Diary

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8th September 2016

Durham Town Hall (Burlison Gallery)

Review by Melis Anik

Sally Bayley walks in, turning around to warmly address her audience as they quieten and direct their attention towards the front. I expect her to sit, but she doesn’t, creating the relaxed and friendly atmosphere that remains throughout the event. She begins by asking something I wasn’t expecting: for our involvement. I soon relax upon discovery that our involvement regards the sharing of family idioms, something which prompts other audience members to speak aloud. Bayley is attentive towards every speaker, nodding, smiling, laughing, and commenting on what they have to say. Suddenly we’re not separated by the barrier between an author and her audience, instead we’re just a group of people interested in the inner workings of the diary itself.

Once seated, the usual event formalities continue, but the room and Bayley herself ensure that the atmosphere stays as relaxed and the audience as comfortable as ever. From talk of her mum’s order-restoring diary, to the idea that the quality of being easily distracted makes for a good diarist, Bayley speaks with ease throughout which is apparent to everyone listening. She even manages to read snippets of her book whilst flitting between a series of important topics including: the observation of diarists such as Virginia Woolf, her own anecdotes, and the progression of the diary in the modern world.

Despite the hustle and bustle of the outside world sometimes being distracting, my attention stays within the room, and on the author who exudes her quirky personality throughout. The humorous moments are complimented by the thought provoking ones. Just as the reminiscence of her own childhood is balanced by the history of others. Every response, whether unique, articulate or a bit of both, makes the event well worth everyone’s time.

This was a wonderful event that highlights the inner workings of the diary and makes even the sceptics want to pick up a pen and scribble their own thoughts on the page.