Barry Fantoni

Barry Fantoni was born in London’s East End in 1940 to an Italian father and a Jewish mother of French and Dutch extraction, both gifted musicians. Aged just fourteen, he was awarded the Wedgewood Scholarship for the Arts and was sent to Camberwell School of Arts & Crafts where he formed the first art school jazz band, a film society and pioneered a drama group. Then got expelled. In 1963, following a period of travel and the sell out of his first one man show in London, Fantoni joined Private Eye magazine as a member of the editorial staff. He would appear in all but 31 issues of the magazine in its 50 years. In 1966 Barry was given the job of creating and presenting a TV show exploring popular trends in the arts called A Whole Scene Going. Featuring everything from skateboards to some girl called Twiggy it won Fantoni TV Personality of the Year and gave him carte blanche to be pretty well whatever he wanted be whether it was jazz musician, script writer, art critic for The Times, cartoonist or playwright. Barry Fantoni now lives in Calais where he writes plays, books, poetry and is looking to Paris to form a theatre company.

1.      What’s your favourite book, and why?
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. This book is the most perfect example of modern writing. It is about Paris and the people he met. It could so easily have been about him. But he puts his own life to one side and lets the most wonderful period in history in the most wonderful city tell is own tale.

2.      Do you have a routine when you’re writing (e.g. silence, a particular genre of music, only working in the morning, only working in your underpants, etc.?)
My working routine has changed since retiring from Private Eye and moving to France. Now I have a croissant to kick off the day and work without interruptions until nine at night. Then I eat and pop out for a digestif.

3.      What advice would you give to anyone who wants to be a writer?
Learn about life and read great books. Not fashionable books. Great books. There are only a couple of dozen. The Little Prince. Catcher on the Rye. The Big Sleep. If you don’t think you can write as well don’t bother.

4.      What one thing would improve your life? 
My life is beyond improving, although some healthy funding for my theatre projects would come in handy.

5.      Where would you like to be right now, anywhere in the world?
I am Italian. I would always prefer to be in Italy.

6.      Are any or your characters based on yourself or people you know?
You can only base characters on people you know or yourself. It might not always be obvious but that is the reality.

7.      If your book was a film, who would you cast for the lead character?
If Harry Lipkin made the silver screen now I would be at a loss. In times passed I would have liked Walter Matthau.

8.      Why are books important in your opinion?
A book is the perfect vehicle for us to place our thoughts in order that others may share them. One printed, our words have life outside of ourselves. The pages of a book carry them and preserve them.

9.      Which authors do you particularly admire?
Hemingway. Chandler. Proust.

10.    If you had a superpower what would it be?
I already have it. A brain.