Graham Norton's Cheltenham Literature Festival talk makes headlines across the world

Despite saying his name 'shouldn't' be in a headline, following his Cheltenham Literature Festival interview with Mariella Frostrup, television presenter Graham Norton talked about cancel culture, accountability and trans issues - with his comments being written about and praised by people all over the world.

By Chloe Gorman  |  Published
Graham Norton spoke to Mariella Frostrup at Cheltenham Literature Festival on Tuesday 11 October 2022.

Television presenter Graham Norton's talk at Cheltenham Literature Festival is making global headlines, following thoughtful and considered comments on cancel culture, accountability and trans issues.

Times Radio shared his conversation with journalist Mariella Frostrup on YouTube, in which Norton talked about the phenomenon of cancel culture, making specific reference to comedian John Cleese. 

Norton said: 'You read a lot of articles in papers by people complaining about cancel culture and you think, in what world are you cancelled? I'm reading your article in a newspaper, or you're doing interviews about how terrible it is to be cancelled? I think the word is the wrong word. I think the word should be accountability.'

Referencing Cleese, he continued: 'It must be very hard to be a man of a certain age, who's been able to say whatever you like for years, and now suddenly, there's some accountability there. It's free speech but not consequence-free.'

When Frostrup also asked about Norton's thoughts on Harry Potter author JK Rowling and the deluge of 'anger, rage and attempts at censorship' levelled at her, he said: 'When I'm asked about it, I become a part of this discussion. All I'm painfully aware of, is my voice adds nothing to that discussion and I'm sort of embarrassed that I'm somehow drawn into it.

'If people want to shine a light on those issues then, and I hope people do, then talk to trans people. Talk to the parents of trans kids. Talk to doctors. Talk to psychiatrists. Talk to someone who can illuminate this in some way.

'I'm very aware that, as a bloke off the telly, your voice can be artificially amplified - and once in a blue moon, that can be good, but most of the time it's just a distraction.

'You can put my name in a headline...  and actually, Graham Norton shouldn't be in your headline. If you want to talk about something, talk about the thing. You don't need to attach a Kardashian to a serious subject. The subject should be enough in itself.'

Norton's comments have been widely praised on Twitter, gathering support from the LGBTQ+ community, also making headlines across the UK and the rest of the world - although Rowling herself became embroiled in a heated exchange with musician Billy Bragg on Twitter, suggesting both his and Norton's comments were misogynistic.

In his hour long talk, as well as speaking in depth about his new book Forever Home, Norton also spoke about his experience hosting the Eurovision Song Contest in 2022, describing the moment when 'that huge wave, that tsunami of votes came in for Ukraine', saying: 'It was just lovely. It was political with a small 'p' because it was just the people of Europe going; we do feel for you, we do know what you're going through, we do support you, we do want you to live in peace.

'Every now and again Eurovision does something that just kind of breaks my heart. I just loved that moment. It was kind of profound.'

Cheltenham Literature Festival continues until Sunday 16 October 2022. 

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