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Jim Broadbent makes big Belsize Park Xmas lights switch-on a starry night

Harry Potter praises work of Royal Free during ceremony

16 December, 2016 — By Tom Foot

Oscar winner Jim Broadbent turns on the Christmas ligts outside Budgen’s

ACTOR Jim Broadbent praised Belsize Park’s “out of this world” community at a jolly Christmas lights switch-on complete with carol-singing, mulled wine and mince pies.

The Oscar winner and national treasure was guest of honour at the event outside the Haverstock Hill branch of Thornton’s Budgens, one of the sponsors.

It had been organised by Linda Grove, in aid of a volunteering project to restore gardens at the front of the Royal Free.

Mr Broadbent said: “The Royal Free is such an important part of our community – it gives the whole flavour to the community. For so many years the gardens have been more or less trash and litter and cigarette butts, and if there are any plants there, they have been dying – but now they have started to create something that is wonderful there.”

He said he had been “drawn inexorably” to Belsize, adding: “All the traders here, I’ve used them all, absolutely every one – it’s a really good community. I’ve been here for 17 years. It’s a lovely place.”

Jim Broadbent Camden New Journal

Jim Broadbent catches up on his favourite weekly read

He revealed a “real turning point” in his career was getting picked to work with director Woody Allen on the film Bullets over Broadway, adding: “He had been such a hero all my life, and to go to New York and work with him was such a thrill.”

Mr Broadbent – who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing John Bayley in Iris – posed for selfies with dozens of fans and joined in the singing with the Royal Free choir.

Former councillor Linda Chung had earlier spoken on stage with the husband of Fortune Green charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been jailed for five years in Iran on dubious “national security” charges.

Linda Chung and Richard Ratcliffe

Linda Chung and Richard Ratcliffe

Richard Ratcliffe recalled how he clicked with Nazanin on their first date over coffee and their “first Christmas together”, adding: “Going off for carols together, it was a lovely time. It is nice to be here, as her delegate as it were, to see the flowers.”

During the evening £350 was raised for the Royal Free gardening scheme through bucket collections.

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