In words and silences

Hilary Wainwright reflects on Harold Pinter and Red Pepper

December 26, 2008 · 2 min read

Red Pepper saw the practical side of Harold Pinter’s politics. Sometimes it was when he applied his skills as a director, advising on, for instance, the magazine’s launch with a public conversation between him, Noam Chomsky and John Pilger at the Almeida Theatre in Islington. Sometimes it was sheer, self-sacrificing dedication, when he turned up (not in the best of health) at bedraggled meetings in chilly rooms and rekindled enthusiasm. Sometimes it was the enjoyment of a convivial party beneath the dilapidated chandeliers of the Irish Club in Eaton Square or, with Antonia Fraser, at the celebration of our 100th issue.

Pinter had a fierce determination that was infectious. In the difficult early days of founding Red Pepper, he made Denise Searle, its first editor, feel that we had to make it work. The magazine would probably not have come into being without him. Financial support was the least of it, though he was generous when most people considered Red Pepper to be just a well-meant fantasy. He himself had no need of a further platform for his political pronouncements but he believed strongly that truth-telling journalism did.

He was quick to give us advice, to open his address book, to rally his friends, for example, when New Labour tried (unsuccessfully) to ban us from their party conference. And occasionally he wrote for us. Beautifully and passionately.

What has always struck me was his political courage and complete absence of deference. He could also be humorous in his seriousness. I remember him describing his refusal to go to the US with the warmongers in government; it was the idea of taking off his shoes for the US authorities that most disgusted him. How much he must have cheered the shoe-throwing of the Iraqi journalist the other week! Harold Pinter was a lodestar to Red Pepper. We’ll miss him, along with Adrian Mitchell and Aubrey Morris, enormously.


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