Isla’s moving account

Isla Blair. Photo: Chris Barham.
Isla Blair. Photo: Chris Barham.

Isla Blair will take her audience with her back to the India of her childhood for a special Chichester Festivities autumn event.

Isla has starred in numerous films and plays, but her latest visit to Chichester will put the focus on her recently-published memoir A Tiger’s Wedding, a moving account of her Indian childhood.

“I have been really thrilled with the response,” Isla said. “I am just very grateful. You never know how people will react. On the back of it, the travel editor of a newspaper has asked me if I will go back to India to write a piece about how it has changed.”

The answer is that it has changed a great deal.

“The book is really about an era that has gone, to be honest. The British Raj is no more - and in some ways, thank God! My parents lived in quite a strange way in some ways. People think they must have been so rich because they had so many servants because of the caste system, but they were absolutely not rich at all. They were quite poor. A lot of tea-planters were not very well paid at all.”

A key part of the book, though, centres on the fact that Isla was sent back to England to be educated - something to which some people react with horror.

“People think how awful for you, and in some ways it was awful for me, but I think it must have been so much more terrible for my parents.”

Isla’s mother didn’t see her for two and a half years; her father didn’t see her for five years. But the point is that they genuinely believed they were acting for the best.

“I think it is so easy to make judgements about people’s decisions in different eras, but people might one day look askance at the way we are behaving now. It was thought of as being the right thing to do, to send your children home to give them a British education. It was just the norm, and we accepted it as such and just got on with it.

“And my parents and my sister and I were unusually close as a family despite it all. When they returned to me when I was 16 years old, it was like getting to know them again the wrong way round. At the time when most people are getting ready to fly the nest, my parents came back to me.

“I feel very defensive towards my parents when people say ‘How could they have done that?’ I feel defensive on their behalf. It was not a miserable childhood. I don’t have any rancour towards my parents. I have a great respect and admiration and a huge love for them. This book feels almost like a tribute.”

Isla will share the stage at the Vicars Hall, Cathedral Green with her husband and fellow actor Julian Glover on Tuesday, November 29 at 7pm for an hour in conversation.

Julian Glover’s stage and screen career encompasses everything from the RSC to Star Wars, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade and, most recently, Game of Thrones.

Tickets £13 (unreserved seating) from http://www.chifest.org.uk/