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Alice Mascarenhas gives insight into her ‘Table’ in Literature Week talk

Johnny Bugeja

Journalist and former deputy editor of the Chronicle, Alice Mascarenhas, gave the public an insight into the array of people who have made Gibraltar the place it is today since the 1920s.

She writes about these people in her weekly column, Alice’s Table, which was published in book format last year.

But do not call her an author, “I am a broadcaster first and a journalist second,” she told Davina Barbara from Gibraltar Cultural Services who was interviewing her as part of Literature Week.

“As a journalist you are a story teller,” she said.

“And I want to tell people’s stories. You have to have an interest in people to be able to communicate with people and share their stories and want to tell their stories.”

“I always felt that there were many stories out there that needed to be told. But, more important than that there were many stories out there that were lost to history and in a sense that is what I wanted to try and capture with Alice’s Table.”

She notes that she could not decide what to call her weekly column and it was the present editor of the Chronicle Brian Reyes who suggested Alice’s Table.

“A seat at my table. It had a definite ring to it and one which I instantly felt would offer me the opportunity to present to our readers a melting pot of sorts serving up a local blend of all that has and continues to make up this community. Community, heritage, culture, art have always been my focus and this is what I will continue to bring to my table every week. Always with people in mind, in the here and now and in days gone by,” she read.

She told Ms Barbara that in the first article she mentioned her granny and the people of her generation who left due to the evacuation and who returned to the Rock at a later stage.

“I wanted to tell the stories of those people,” she said.

She had wanted to expand on what she had done all her life as a journalist but due to the hours she worked and the constant pressure of a deadline it was not the right time to tell them. Retirement, although it could be debated that she has not retired as she contributes regularly to the newspaper, provided her with that opportunity.

There is a lot of variety in the book Alice’s Table, which comprises of 54 stories, it is not just about people she has known all her life it also includes stories that she does not want to be lost forever such as the time Doris Day came to the Rock.

Ms Barbara asked her which story stays with her. It was not a question Ms Mascarenhas was able to answer with ease as many do but recalled that her interview with Susan Clifton Tucker stands out as she has known the former GBC presenter for many decades.

On how she drew the stories out of people she said she never prepares a list of questions per se and she does not conduct interviews. She sits down with the person, always with a cup of coffee, and chat with them. She lets them tell their story. As a result some of the meetings around Alice’s preverbal table have taken hours.

Ms Mascarenhas also wrote a book on Gibraltarian Playwright Elio Cruz and stated that GCS CEO Seamus Byrne deserved the merit for the book and only accepted a small amount of credit.

“He was such a joy to be with. I was very fortunate to have him as a friend of mine,” said Ms Mascarenhas.

“You talk about people who you miss and he is certainly one of them. Because, he was always there and always had something to say.”

She recalled two stories that she believes tells the world about the kind of man Mr Cruz was.

“On seeing Maggie Smith in a play in the West End she had just received an Oscar,” she said.

“Cecil often retells how angry Elio was when the curtain just closed. He got up and applauded saying ‘If this were anywhere else but England she would be getting a standing ovation, clap clap’, and I could imagine him doing that.”

She recounted the time she had just flown into London and dashed off to the theatre with her cousin Samantha and on her way to the they spotted Mr Cruz also on his way to the opening night of The Producers.

She said if she would have enjoyed the performance that night it would have been wonderful but it was made even more so by “Elio’s roaring laughter.”

“It was a great production made all the more special because he was there,” she added.

Alice’s Table is still available for sale at the Chronicle offices or at the Gibraltar Heritage Trust shop.