When Imran Ahmad was a child he imagined himself as a writer. So he went to university and studied chemistry. And then he went on to lead a managerial life with groups such as Unilever and one of the big consulting firms. I chatted with Imran at the festival and heard him speak at the Writers Cabaret about his word-of-mouth and never-say-die journey to publication. He appeared (breaks in transmission to talk about writers cabaret) amid recitals by Tom Keneally, folk songs with really meaningful lyrics by Professor Ian Lowe, author and film-maker Oren Siedler as part of a classical string quartet, Sam Cutler, ex-Rolling Stones tour manager, the uplifting Carl Cleves, singer and broadcaster James Griffin, and historian, film-maker, musicianMichael Caulfield on his guitar, the hilarious stand-up and now author Tom Gleeson, Judith Lanigan’s incredible Dying Swan by Hula, (next day i spotted Lanigan teaching Mark Dapin how to swing a hula hoop). Then there was Linda Jaivin’s simmering (that should be in scarlet red) rendition of Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis, and with Dominic Knight making a rare front of stage appearance – he is a Chaser team member you didn’t see much on screen, and now a novelist. He appeared not as Disco Boy but with a guitar and a line of hirsute self-deprecation. Sandi Gandhi was host. She’s the comedienne who would have won Australia’s Got Talent, had her friends and neighbours all not phoned Crimestoppers to vote by mistake.
Meanwhile, a full account of Imran’s path to publication can be read here.
I was curious about the recommendation from the British politician Ann Widdecombe. Normally an endorsement from her would put me off. She was not my favourite politician in the UK, although I give her some credit for always speaking her mind. Imran took the unusual step of self-promotion in mailing a copy of his book to all of Britain’s 646 politicians, although he almost skipped Widdecombe, and found out later that she had listed his book as her favourite read of 2007.
The events and aftermath of 9/11 set Imran off as a writer. He had to respond to the vitriolic backlash against Muslims. He wanted to set the record straight to let people know, “We’re not terrorists – we are really boring people who pray all the time and don’t drink!”
Imran is not one of those writers who pops into a festival for his appearance. He was spotted at the Launchpad on Saturday watching aspiring writers pitch their books to publishers and agents.
His popularity at the festival was Unimagined with all copies of his book being sold before I and many others could buy one for Imran to sign.