Luke Harding, Award-winning Journalist and Author

report by Lisa Nightingale

It was difficult to believe that Luke Harding, confident and humorous in suit and blue suede shoes, had been the action hero link in Hollywood type investigative journalism. Perhaps, the red shoe laces were a reminder of a hidden bent for rebellion. Having been orchestrator of enlightenments on the Mafia State of Russia and WikiLeaks, he threw himself, and his team at the Guardian into The Snowden Files.

Luke’s effortless ability to use only one or two well-chosen adverbs to build characters had the most cynical of us sold on his work. The description of his latest work, The Snowden Files that it reads like Le Carre crossed with something by Kafka may sound like the spy thriller to end all sceptics, but it would seem that it is all 100% true!

Jan 15 Luke Harding_1682Luke promised HWS members that he had tried to recreate the constant atmosphere of paranoia in the book. His stream of anecdotes on the day to day workings of spies, emphasising the differences between the US spies, devoid of all sense of humour and the British spies educated on Monty Python kept us entertained. But his simple exercise on our very own iPhones, showing us how we can be tracked at any given time, assuring us that this information is accessed by the government and making us all question our own privacy raised an audible gasp from the auditorium.

The complicated trail that Edward Snowden initially led the journalists on would have caused anyone less dedicated to question his plausibility. But as they kept digging, interest from both the British and the American Governments confirmed both his and his story’s credibility.

Refreshing and convincing was Luke’s description of Edward Snowden as a young agent having become enraged by his organisation having morphed into a monster following the terrorist attacks on his home country in 2001. Adding gravitas to his words was his honest admission that it was Snowden who then had to educate the journalists on the use of encryption, computer viruses and code words.

A very apparent threat that legislation put in place to deal with the plots of terrorists would be used to deal with the British press brought home the credibility of the research and writings of the Guardian team. A necessity for facts and names used to be checked and double checked with the limitations of legalities was adhered to at all times. Luke is able to tell us that although perhaps the President of the USA and UK MPs were not happy to confirm the findings, they complied as the laws put in place by their predecessors state that they should.

What was Edward Snowden hoping to achieve? It was never his plan to destroy the organisation he worked for, but reformation was needed and his actions brought many secrets to the fore, causing the people they supposedly protect to question their working. While Edward Snowden is unable to return home to America, Luke advised us that, that is what he would most like to do.

In the meantime, there is no stopping Luke and as the Guardian moves to global coverage, we look forward to more surreal truths and wonder who it is that is protecting us.

Our three speakers knitted together well. One thing that was evident throughout was the passion for writing. Bringing characters much needed plausibility and credibility when their plausibility is destined to be disenchanted. The dissemination of research which was a mystery to many of us now makes perfect sense. And the necessity of the integrity of the activities experienced in gaining that research is what makes it unquestionable.

Dr.Simon Jobson – Special Guest

We were delighted to welcome Dr. Simon Jobson as our special guest for the evening. He is the newly appointed Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange at the University of Winchester  after becoming an academic in Sports Physiology.

Simon very kindly voiced the question mostly probably simmering away in most of our minds – What is Knowledge Exchange?  It is the dissemination of research activities and the research that has been carried out.

Simon issued a request for our help! He has written, edited and published works on the physiology of sports, particularly cycling and so is aware of many of the challenges faced by writers. How is it, that writers such as ourselves overcome these challenges?

In his experience Simon has realised that there is much criss-crossing of the academic and the creative writer. It is a requirement that academic writing remain ‘dry’, for example, the use of such terms as ‘I’ or ‘we’ is not allowed. An issue is then created that the piece of writing is rendered unenjoyable to those choosing to read it for pleasure. And so any suggestions, ideas or just thoughts on how to overcome this problem will be most welcome.

Regardless of the level of our writing, our knowledge and experiences are valuable to academics like Simon. It is in this way that the University of Winchester is hugely supportive of the Writers’ Society.

Many thanks to all our speakers

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