Enoch Powell, Eaton Square, 1984. Photo © Derek Ridgers.
Irrespective of his ridiculous views on race relations, Enoch Powell was certainly one of my strangest ever subjects.
I was commissioned to photograph him by the NME and, together with the writer Mat Snow, we turned up at his very grand flat in Eaton Square to meet a guy who seemed determined, for some reason, to try to make us laugh. For someone who achieved a starred double-first from Cambridge University, and who was often referred to as the greatest political mind of his generation, he struck me as a bit of a twit. To start with, he began by deriding my accent and the way I talk. He enquired as to whether I might be an Australian? I’m a Londoner, born and bred and though my accent isn’t of the typical gor-blimey cockney variety, it’s never (outside of the US) ever confused anyone before. Then he asked me about the origins of my name and started to try to find something funny about that. Next he spoke to a woman who had been detailed to bring us some tea and called her “dear” and invited us to speculate on what his precise relationship with her was (it was his wife). All the while he was grinning at us like Sid James in a Carry On film.
His desire to trivialise the situation must, I guess, have been some sort of bizarre tactic to make us forget to ask him anything remotely serious. It was a little patronising of him and it didn’t work. Mat Snow was far too canny an interviewer for that and he managed to ask him all the questions I’m sure he would rather have not been asked. Mat Snow writes “being interviewed as he was by New Musical Express, rather than await my questions he launched straight into an interminable monologue about Nietzsche and his philosophy of music, and seemed rather put out when I tried to get the interview back on track by asking him if perhaps his infamous ‘rivers of blood’ UK race war prediction of 1968 was perhaps a tad wide of the mark as things had panned out by then.”
Enoch Powell was a proud man but, in my judgement, by this stage of his political career, a little sad.
© Derek Ridgers. From The Ponytail Pontifications.