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Beale boost for shelf confidence

Keats Community Library will play host to Simon Russell Beale in conversation with Piers Plowright

07 December, 2017 — By Piers Plowright

Simon Russell Beale and Jeffrey Tambor in the recent film, Stalin Is Dead

LAVRENTI Pavlovich Beria, Stalin’s infamous secret police chief, will be there. So will Prospero, Hamlet, Timon of Athens, Candide, King Lear, Galileo, Benedick the Married Man, Oscar Wilde, Macbeth, George Smiley, Uncle Vanya, Iago and drag artist Captain Terri Dennis. And quite possibly whiffs of Beethoven, Bach, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Herbert Howells, Sibelius, Ravel and Peter Warlock.

Actor and music lover, Simon Russell Beale, will be talking to me next Tuesday evening in the Peter Samuel Hall at the Royal Free Hospital in aid of Keats Community Library, Hampstead’s local independent library. And bringing thoughts about acting some of the greatest roles in the theatre as well as his passion for music. And books.

Collaborators by Hodge, , Writer – John Hodge, Director – Nicholas Hytner, Designer – Bob Crowley, Lighting – Jon Clarke, The National Theatre, 2011, Credit: Johan Persson

Russell Beale as Stalin in Collaborators

Keats Community Library is riding high at the moment. Five years on from its declaration of independence from Camden Council, book loans are up, schools queue to borrow and browse, and in the Nightingale Room (John K, not Florence) mothers, fathers and toddlers make reading and listening the fun it ought to be. All of which received splendid recognition last Thursday when in a ceremony at Foyles bookshop, the library won the annual Eleanor Farjeon Award for outstanding contribution to the world of children’s books.

Quentin Blake, David Almond, Philip Pullman, and Jacqueline Wilson are among previous winners.

There’s a special resonance to the award this year, because Eleanor Farjeon, poet, memoirist, playwright and a wonderful writer for children herself, spent much of her life in Hampstead and did so much to inspire and encourage young readers.

As Anne Harvey, actor and executor of the Eleanor Farjeon estate, said before handing over the cheque for £1,000, Eleanor lived for books and adored libraries, private and public. As she did the theatre. It would have given her great pleasure to know that one of her favourite institutions and one of our leading actors are coming together in her favourite part of London.

Simon Russell Beale in conversation with Piers Plowright Tuesday, December 12, at 7.30pm. Tickets £12 from the library in Keats Grove or by phone on 020 7431 1266 or online at


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