Alexander Fiske-Harrison

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Alexander Fiske-Harrison
AF-H writing by Paloma.jpg
Born (1976-07-22) 22 July 1976 (age 38)
Occupation writer, actor

Alexander Rupert Fiske-Harrison (born 22 July 1976) is an English author and journalist, playwright, actor and producer.

He wrote and acted in The Pendulum in London's West End.[1] He was named "the bullfighter-philosopher"[2] by The Times of London for his research – theoretical and practical – into bullfighting for his book Into The Arena: The World Of The Spanish Bullfight which was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award 2011. He is also a well-known bull-runner[3] and co-authored and edited Fiesta: How To Survive The Bulls Of Pamplona.

Background & Personal Life[edit]

He is the youngest son of Clive Fiske Harrison,[4][5] chairman of Fiske plc, where he is also a non-executive director.[6] His brother Jules William Fiske Harrison was, according to The Times, a "famously skilled and fearless skiier" who died in a skiing accident in Zermatt, Switzerland in 1988.[7]

Fiske-Harrison was educated at Eton College and the University of Oxford, and as a posgraduate at the London School of Economics and Political Science.[8] He also trained at the Method acting school, the Stella Adler Conservatory in New York City when Marlon Brando was its chairman.[9] (He was consultant on the Universal Pictures' documentary on Brando, Listen To Me Marlon.)[10]

He has been friends since Oxford with British actor Hugh Dancy,[11] and his wife, Claire Danes, who appear in his book Into The Arena.[12]


Fiske-Harrison contributes to The Times,[13] Financial Times,[14] Daily Telegraph,[15] GQ[16] The Spectator,[17] The Times Literary Supplement,[18] and Prospect magazines.[19]

He has appeared on the BBC,[20] CNN,[21] Al-Jazeera,[22] Discovery Channel,[23] and US National Public Radio.[24]

He has also contributed in Spanish to ABC[25] and El Norte de Castilla.[26]



Fiske-Harrison toreando, 'bullfighting', in Palma del Río, Córdoba province, Spain

A controversial essay on bullfighting for Prospect magazine[27] in September 2008 led Fiske-Harrison to move to Spain to further research the topic. He lived, trained and fought alongside matadors including the one-eyed Juan José Padilla, Cayetano Rivera Ordóñez – whose father Paquirri was killed in the ring, and grandfather Antonio Ordóñez the subject of Hemingway's The Dangerous Summer – and Eduardo Dávila Miura of the famous Miura bull family. He wrote about his experiences on his blog The Last Arena: In Search of the Spanish Bullfight.[28] In September 2009 the journalist Giles Coren visited him in Spain and described him as: "Very brave. Very British. Very Charge of the Light Brigade. Very trenches. Very scary."[29]


Fiske-Harrison, circled, running among the bulls of Torrestrella on calle Estafeta in Pamplona

As part of his researches in 2009 Fiske-Harrison began running with the bulls in Pamplona,[30][31] and became a part of the 'Runners Team of the World',[32] and continued to do it across the rest of Spain, including the encierros, 'bull-runs', of the Navarran towns of Tafalla and Falces - where the run is down a mountain path beside a sheer drop called 'El Pilón'[33]- in the Madrid suburb of San Sebastián de los Reyes and the ancient castle of Cuéllar in Old Castile,[34][35] which hosts the oldest encierro, 'bull-run' in Spain,[36] and where he was awarded a prize for the "divulgación" of the encierros in 2013.[37]

Into The Arena: The World Of The Spanish Bullfight[edit]

In 2011 Profile Books published his Into The Arena: The World of the Spanish Bullfight. The Mail on Sunday gave it four stars, saying, "his descriptions of the fights are compelling and lyrical... One begins to understand what has captivated Spaniards for centuries."[38] The Sunday Times said that "it provides an engrossing introduction to Spain's 'great feast of art and danger'",[39] the Sunday Telegraph said, it was "a compelling read, unusual for its genre, exalting the bullfight as pure theatre,"[40] and the Financial Times called it, "an engrossing introduction to bullfighting."[41]

In answer to Animal Welfare and Animal Rights concerns, the Daily Mail said that although Fiske-Harrison "develops a taste for the whole gruesome spectacle, what makes the book work is that he never loses his disgust for it,"[42] the Financial Times said, "it's to Fiske-Harrison's credit that he never quite gets over his moral qualms about bullfighting," and the Literary Review concluded: "The question of whether a modern society should endorse animal suffering as entertainment is bound to cross the mind of any casual visitor to a bullfight. Alexander Fiske-Harrison first tussled with the issue in his early twenties and, as a student of both philosophy and biology, has perhaps tussled with it more lengthily and cogently than most of us."[43]

It was selected by Sunday Telegraph as a "best summer holiday read"[44] and the Sunday Times as one of the summer's "essential travel book list."[45] It was shortlisted for William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award 2011.[46] Both the Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph went on to recommend it among their sports books of the year.[47][48]

Fiesta: How To Survive The Bulls Of Pamplona[edit]

In Spring 2014 Fiske-Harrison co-authored and edited the book Fiesta: How To Survive The Bulls Of Pamplona, published by Mephisto Press. It included a foreword from the Mayor of Pamplona and contributions from famous living aficionados of the festival of San Fermín, including John Hemingway, grandson of Ernest Hemingway, Beatrice Welles, daughter of Orson Welles, along with chapters of advice from the most experienced American and Spanish bull-runners such as Joe Distler,[49] Julen Madina,[50] Miguel Ángel Eguiluz[51] and Jokin Zuasti[52] and photographs from EPA veteran Jim Hollander. It caused headlines around the world when one of the contributors was gored by a bull soon after publication.[53] Fiske-Harrison himself had been running with the same animal minutes earlier, although he was uninjured.[54][55] As a result the gored writer's contribution was replaced by advice from other bull-running authors.[56]

Fiske-Harrison has also contributed to various anthologies on 'the world of the bulls', including Olé: Capturing The Passion of Bullfighters And Aficionados in the 21st Century and Running The Bulls With Hemingway & Other Pamplona Tales.[57]


Fiske-Harrison's acting debut was as Govianus in The Second Maiden's Tragedy at the Hackney Empire theatre in London.[58] He has also acted on the German stage.[59]

The Pendulum[edit]

The Pendulum
The Pendulum - Before The Duel (small).JPG
Alexander Fiske-Harrison & Gareth Kennerley
Written by Alexander Fiske-Harrison
Date premiered 3 June 2008
Place premiered Jermyn Street Theatre, West End, London

The play is a two-act four-hander set in 1900 Vienna. Its first production was in the summer of 2008 at the Jermyn Street Theatre, in London's West End.[60]

Michael Billington in The Guardian gave it three stars and said, "Fiske-Harrison has clearly done his homework: he understands, for instance, the tensions between Franz Joseph’s imperial benevolence and the antisemitism of Vienna’s populist mayor, Karl Lueger. The author himself plays the disintegrating hero with the right poker-backed irascibility... while it is refreshing to find a new play that gets away from bedsit angst, one wonders why Fiske-Harrison has tackled this subject now. If there are contemporary parallels, they are not obvious, and one comes away with the sensation of having seen an accomplished, but oddly impersonal, historical play."[61] The Sunday Times described it as "something earnest, nicely acted – if a little contained – but as far from the wildness of Schnitzler or the darkness of Schiele as you can possibly imagine".[62]


  1. ^ Compston, Harriet. Arts Scene: Drama: 'Hottie Ahoy!', Conde Nast's Tatler. July 2008
  2. ^ Flintoff, John-Paul. Today's toffs: tough, violent, amoral?, The Times. 18 May 2010
  3. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'A Good Run' The Spectator, 14 July 2012
  4. ^ Winter, Laura. "Clive Fiske Harrison". Debrett's People of Today 2012
  5. ^ Fiske Harrison of Layer de la Haye Burke's Peerage
  6. ^
  7. ^ Coren, Giles. 'How do I hate skiing?', The Times 21 March 2009
  8. ^ Fiske Harrison of Layer de la Haye Burke's Peerage
  9. ^ Profile Books Author page Alexander Fiske-Harrison
  10. ^ Alexander Fiske-Harrison at the Internet Movie Database
  11. ^ Alexander Fiske-Harrison's Biography at IMDb
  12. ^ Coren, Giles. 'Mad bulls and Englishmen', The Times 26 December 2009
  13. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'Who to back in the Grand National? Not the tipsters' The Times. 12 April 2012
  14. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander. 'Talking with apes', Financial Times. 24 November 2001
  15. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'To the Spanish bullfighting is much more than just a sport' Daily Telegraph. 25 November 2011
  16. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'The Last Matador', GQ. September 2012
  17. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'Warrior: The Story of the real warhorse', The Spectator, 21 January 2012
  18. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander. 'Can computers converse?', The Times Literary Supplement. 9 June 2000
  19. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander. 'On Philosophers and Wolves', Prospect. 22 January 2009
  20. ^ Lewis, Alun 'testbeds: Artificial Intelligence', BBC Radio 4, 17 February 2000
  21. ^ 'The future of bullfighting in Spain', CNN, 28 July 2010
  22. ^ [1] 'Bullfighting debate with Alexander Fiske-Harrison and Jordi Casamitjana', Al-Jazeera, September 2008
  23. ^ Frayer, Lauren [2] 'World's Scariest Animal Attacks', Mentorn TV. 16 August 2012
  24. ^ Bullfighting in Spain Stays Alive Despite Regional Ban', NPR. 28 September 2011.
  25. ^ Pina, Marina 'De Eton a Cuéllar, en un solo encierro', ABC. 31 August 2013
  26. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'Gracias, Cuéllar, desde Londres' El Norte de Castilla. 3 September 2012
  27. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander. 'A Noble Death', Prospect. September 2008
  28. ^ Davis, Clive. 'In the arena', The Spectator. 2 March 2009
  29. ^ Coren, Giles. 'Mad bulls and Englishmen', The Times 26 December 2009
  30. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'A Good Run', The Spectator, 14 July 2012
  31. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander [3], The Spectator, 26 October 2013
  32. ^ 7del7 Runner Team del Mundo
  33. ^ 'My article ‘See you soon, Cuéllar’ in El Norte de Castilla' The Last Arena, 14 September 2014
  34. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'Gracias, Cuéllar, desde Londres', 'El Norte de Castilla', 3 September 2012
  35. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'Y una vez más,gracias, Cuéllar, desde Londres', 'El Norte de Castilla', 2 September 2013
  36. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'The real, old stuff', Financial Times, 31 May 2013
  37. ^ Ernes 'Galardonados con el trofeo Ehtoro a la divulgación del encierro de Cuéllar',, 27 June 2013
  38. ^ Owen, James 'Where Hemingway Feared To Tread', Mail on Sunday. 10 July 2011
  39. ^ Schofield, Brian 'Review: Into The Arena by Alexander Fiske-Harrison', Sunday Times. 29 May 2011
  40. ^ Brown, Oliver 'Books for Christmas: Sport Books: Into The Arena', Sunday Telegraph. 27 November 2011
  41. ^ Eltringham, Dan 'Books: Non-fiction: Into The Arena', Financial Times. 4 June 2011
  42. ^ Palmer, Mark 'Etonian Matador Who Triumphs In The Bullring' Daily Mail. 26 May 2011
  43. ^ France, Miranda 'Blood, Sweat and tears', Literary Review. August 2011
  44. ^ Kerr, Michael 'The best summer holiday reads', Sunday Telegraph. 8 July 2011
  45. ^ Sattin, Anthony and Schofield, Brian 'Summer reads for travellers', Sunday Times. 19 June 2011
  46. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'To the Spanish bullfighting is much more than a sport' Daily Telegraph. 26 November 2011
  47. ^ Pitt, Nick 'Sports Books Of The Year', Sunday Times. 4 December 2011
  48. ^ Brown, Oliver 'Books for Christmas: Sport', Sunday Telegraph, 27 November 2011
  49. ^ Distler, Joe 'Why I will run the bulls again' New York Times, 6 July 2010
  50. ^ 'Julen Madina: Cinco Cornadas Incrementan Su Leyenda' (Julen Madina: Five Gorings Increase His Legend) ABC, 14 July 2004
  51. ^ 'Eguiluz: "Correr delante de la cara del toro es un éxtasis"' (Eguiluz: "Running in front of the face of the bull is an ecstasy") La Vanguardia 8 July 2014
  52. ^ 'La tradicion por encima de todo' (Tradition above all) El Pais, 15 July 2009
  53. ^ 'San Fermín So Far - 2014' The Pamplona Post, 12 July 2014
  54. ^ 'Co-Author Of Bull-Running Guide Gored In Pamplona' New York Times, 9 July 2014
  55. ^ 'Bull-Run Survival Guide Author Gored In Spain' The Times, 9 July 2014
  56. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'A new fiesta' The Last Arena
  57. ^ Amazon Author Page for Alexander Fiske-Harrison
  58. ^ London Theatre Database page
  59. ^ "'Alone Together':Familienkomödie im English Theatre", Die Welt. 23 November 2007
  60. ^
  61. ^ Billington, Michael. 'Theatre Review: The Pendululm', The Guardian. 9 June 2008
  62. ^ Wise, Louis. 'Theatre Review: The Pendulum, Jermyn Street, SW1'. Sunday Times 15 June 2008

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