Journalist Lynn Barber is used to interviewing people. She’s often credited as being one of the first celebrity interviewers in the UK, and remains peerless in her field.
Speaking with Ryan Tubridy about her impressions of some of her most notorious interviewees, Jarvis Cocker, James Stewart, Shane McGowan and Jimmy Savile all inspire different memories.
Lynn recalls she could "barely stand up" after meeting McGowan. As for Jimmy Savile, he definitely made an impact. She’d "heard rumours that he liked little girls". Her enquiries "caused a sensation at the time".
Lynn describes detractors who refused to entertain the idea that "this wonderful man who gives so much to charity" was capable of the horrific abuse which he is now so infamous.
No stranger to being the focus of interviews herself, Lynn’s two-year affair with a con-man inspired the Oscar-nominated film An Education.
The focus of her conversation with Ryan, however, was another episode, and a time she didn’t ask as many questions as she should have. Distressed by what she was seeing on the news every night, Lynn decided to offer her house to a refugee:
"There was just one horrible story after another about refugees from Syria drowning in boats."
A young man from Sudan, Mohammed, was referred to her by friends and soon moved in with her as a lodger. He fixed her computer and cooked her traditional Sudanese food. He wanted to treat her "like his mother", Lynn said, an effort Lynn resisted mightily.
"No, no, no. I’m not going to be your mother. I’m your landlady".
The new housemates were getting on well and even Lynn’s daughter approved of him. Mohammed got bagfuls of warm clothes from "a rather fancy tennis club" one of Lynn’s friends’ patronised.
Things changed when Mohammed read an article Lynn had written about him for The Sunday Times. Angered by what he perceived to be an inaccurate portrayal of him, Mohammed moved out that night. Harsh words were exchanged. "Why do you write this stuff?", he asked. "You First World women, you’re all so heartless".
Lynn found the confrontation upsetting but can take some positives away from the experience.
"Although it ended very badly, the six months he was living here were fine. Positively. You know, pleasurable."
Ryan asked if Lynn thought that the situation she found herself in with Mohammed was "a landlady-lodger relationship that… just didn’t quite work out, rather than a big global crisis as a microcosm". Was it also a chance to "strike out this distrust" Lynn had developed following her teenage experiences with a con-man? Lynn thinks she will fall back into old habits.
"I found it very easy to trust him and was very glad that I did but of course because it all ended badly, I suppose I’ll now revert to distrusting people, which is a pity."
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