Ian McEwan heckled by “ex-wife” at Cheltenham Literature Festival

The author was speaking to promote his new novel The Children Act when he was interrupted by a woman believed to be his former spouse Penny Allen

Author Ian McEwan was heckled by a woman believed to be his former wife Penny Allen while speaking at Cheltenham Literature Festival on Friday afternoon.


The woman was heard to shout from the back of the audience about an alleged “injunction” McEwan has on her and her partner to which the novelist, 66, was heard to mutter “it’s my ex-wife”.

The woman was speaking without a microphone and found herself on the receiving end of backlash from audience members, one of whom earned applause for shouting: “We haven’t paid good money to sit here and listen to you”, reported the Times.

McEwan refrained from responding to the woman’s comments before she and a man thought to be her husband Ismay Tremain were escorted from the session.

One ticket holder took to Twitter in reaction to the incident which took place in the festival’s Times Forum.

McEwan’s new novel is his thirteenth and looks at a troubled marriage and legal battles over a child’s life – a premise not far removed from his own past which saw him engaged in a bitter custody battle with Allen in the nineties over the couple’s two sons.

The dispute became so acrimonious that Allen and her husband turned up to a 1999 court hearing wearing gags to represent the injunction preventing her from discussing their case.

Speaking in an interview with the Daily Mail last month, Allen said of her ex-husband: “It seems iniquitous that while I am bound by law to be silent, he is free to promote his new book in publicity interviews by referring to it.

She continued, “It is certainly a bit rich that Mr McEwan champions free speech but I am stifled and have no such freedom to defend myself, which has had a catastrophic effect on my ability to work as a writer and journalist. We don’t give interviews but he does.”

The novelist – whose second wife Annalena McAfee was present at yesterday’s event – was speaking with former Lord Justice of Appeal Sir Alan Ward whose work was the inspiration for The Children Act.


RadioTimes.com has approached McEwan’s agent for comment but is yet to receive a response.