JUST how does an orphan, growing up in a poverty-stricken west London slum, chart a path to becoming one of the most important and influential politicians of his generation?
Alan Johnson, the former postman-turned-home secretary (and self-proclaimed ‘failed rock star’), has now become an award-winning and best-selling author.
And he is lifting the lid on his remarkable journey in a brand new 2019 touring UK theatre show, In My Life which comes to Huntingdon Hall on Saturday (May 11).
“This is a deeply personal story about politics, pop, power and passion,” said the 68-year-old, whose memoirs have sold more than half a million copies since the publication of his debut work in 2013.
“Yes, I’ve held senior offices in Government and served through some of the most important periods of our recent history, but I don’t want people to think this is a show which is just about party politics.
“First and foremost, it’s about me; memories of my childhood, life growing up in the 1950s, the people and places which have played a significant role in making me who I am today . . . with plenty of comedy, and music.
“Music has played such an important part in my life. In my teenage years, I certainly wasn’t harbouring any ambitions to be a politician – oh no, I just wanted to be a rock star.
As a songwriter and a guitarist, Alan was part of two swinging sixties bands, The Vampires and The Area, playing gigs around the London area which blended original material with covers of the Rolling Stones, the Troggs, the Monkees and Small Faces. The Area even recorded a single, Hard Life, which was hawked around several record labels.
His first memoir, This Boy, which charted Alan’s difficult childhood growing up in the 1950s, was published in 2013 and won the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize, as well as Britain’s top political writing award, The Orwell Prize. His follow-up, Please Mister Postman, published the following year, was named autobiography of the year in the Specsavers National Booker Awards.
And his third and final volume of memoirs, The Long and Winding Road, which was published in 2016, is now on the road to similar acclaim.
“I’ve not written these books to try to score any sort of political advantage; that’s not my style at all. With my mum dying when I was very young, the opportunity to make her live again on the page was a real incentive.
After being elected to parliament in 1997 as Labour MP for Kingston Upon Hull West and Hessle, he went on to serve in both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s cabinets, holding a procession of senior positions including three of the most important cabinet posts – Education Secretary, Health Secretary, and finally Home Secretary until being succeeded by Theresa May in 2010.
“If people want to talk to me on the tour about my time in Government, of course I’ll be happy to share some of the stories. But I’m not really interested in any heavyweight blow-for-blow accounts of the rights and wrongs of things,” he said.
Alan stood down as an MP in 2017, a year after campaigning for the UK to remain in the European Union and revealed he was enjoying the new lease of life as a raconteur and getting the chance to re-visit many parts of the country with which he became familiar during his postal union travels.
“When I relinquished my ministerial position in 2010, it left a big gap, and was the perfect time for me to pursue my passion for writing,” he said.
“I have no idea if I’ll have the same sort of success writing fiction, but I do know one thing . . . it’s going to be a lot of fun finding out.”
Call the Worcester Live Box Office on 01905 611427 or visit www.worcesterlive.co.uk for more.