Law professor and former NMP Simon Tay did such a bad job at the Singapore Writers Festival that one participant even wanted to walk out of the session he moderated.
He was moderating a lecture by Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid. The participant said: “Simon screwed up from the word go. He couldn’t remember how many books the author had written or whether his work, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is a book or a film.
For the record, it came out as a book and was made into a movie.
Another member of the audience was quoted in The Straits Times: “I wish the moderator had been able to pick up on some of the themes of Hamid’s lecture, to discuss the nuances in his writing. It would have turned a great lecture into something truly outstanding.”
Moderating is serious business but not many take it seriously.
A Facebook post said: “I attended several sessions and found there were other unprepared moderators, too. One decided to announce the year in which Icelandic poet Sjon was born and got it royally wrong. What someone’s date of birth has to do with your opening line beats me.
“I have been thinking about this and asking myself why this is happening.”
The Singapore Writers Festival pays its moderators so there is no excuse for not doing your research.
“Moderating is hard work. It is like being live in front of a TV camera for 60 minutes or longer. You are your own researcher. You have to write your own script.”
Tay is no newbie to doing this kind of work. He has moderated high-level international sessions and done them quite well. Maybe, he didn’t think the festival was such a big deal and took his foot off the pedal.