Logo

West Hampstead playwright tells of ‘terror of death’ as he turns 85

PUBLISHED: 12:01 16 November 2011

Jewish writer Bernard Kops celebrates his 85th birthday this month. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Jewish writer Bernard Kops celebrates his 85th birthday this month. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Pic by Nigel Sutton 17 Redington Rd London NW3 7QX Tel 020 7794 3008 email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

An eminent West Hampstead playwright and author has spoken of a lifetime living on the edge, as he turns 85.

Bernard Kops, who has lived in Canfield Gardens for nearly 50 years, has produced numerous successful plays, novels and poetry, and shows no signs of stopping.

His latest novel, The Odyssey of Samuel Glass, the story of a boy searching for his identity, is due out in April and he has numerous other projects planned.

Behind this is a burning passion for life and for writing which has accelerated with age.

“I have an absolute terror of being dead,” said the playwright. “I can’t bear having to leave everything I know and love and need, like my family and my work.”

He says his writing is “like a fever” which never abates.

Having completed 40 plays, nine novels and seven books of poetry, the Jewish writer who grew up in poverty in the East End, remains full of ideas.

Being a writer is a vocation demanding creativity and destructiveness, empathy and compulsion, he said.

“In order to touch people you have to be touched,” he said. “You cant fake a poem.

“In life you are constantly confronting a crisis and you’ve got to learn to love your crisis.

“I’m dead scared, but I like being scared because it brings out an authenticity in you.”

In the past Mr Kops reached rock bottom with drugs and suicidal thoughts, but recovered due to the love of his family.

His daily routine of the last 30 years involves walking on Hampstead Heath and eating at the Garden Cafe, in West Hampstead.

Despite his success he claims he is “still a street person” and derives immense pleasure from the West Hampstead vibe.

He and his wife Erica chose the area because of its vibrancy and its strong Jewish and intellectual culture.
“There was so many Polish shops and Yiddish spoken on the streets, and the Cosmo cafe where all the writers used to meet,” he said. “It’s a lovely area. Very cosmopolitan to this day.”

Nowadays Mr Kops remains most proud of his work with young and aspiring writers, or those on the fringes of society.

After visiting Wormwood Scrubs prison he found that of “all these people who are lost, most of them had a kind of talent.”

He also runs writing workshops helping young people in the East End.

“I always feel that people can change,” he said. “When I was young nobody would give a tuppence for my chances. I had no career and no education but I ended up doing well.”

The Jewish Museum in Camden will celebrate the playwright’s 85th birthday by staging his first play from 1957, The Hamlet of Stepney Green, on Sunday, November 27.

Latest Hampstead & Highgate education news

From maths mystery to maths mastery: Coldfall Primary School teacher on enlightening trip to Singapore

A group of teachers from a Muswell Hill school paid a visit to Singapore over the Easter break in a bid to expand their outlook on the teaching of maths.

Get inspired to put pen to paper by performance of Suddenly at Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone

A theatre company is hoping that children who come along to their latest production will be inspired to put pen to paper.

Parents missing out on National Offer Day due to high demand for ‘outstanding’ primary schools

We spoke to London Metropolitan University’s head of subject for health and childhood Kelly Cooper about her experience of National Offer Day...

Advice for Camden, Haringey, Barnet and Westminster parents on what to do if your child misses out on top primary school place

Families in Camden, Haringey, Barnet and Westminster found out yesterday whether their children had bagged their top choice of primary school.

More Barnet children set to attend primary school of their choice in September

More Barnet children will be attending the primary school of their choice in September.

Camden and Haringey 2017 primary school places allocated

Parents across Camden and Haringey have found out today which primary schools their children will be going to in September.

Campaigners call on Haringey parents to come up with summer term plan of action against funding cuts

Campaigners are calling on parents to help them come up with a plan of action in their fight against funding cuts to schools.

Controversy over private girls’ school teacher taking part in Miss Universe contest

A teacher from top private girls’ school Channing has hit tabloid headlines after announcing she is entering the Miss Universe GB competition.

North London Conservatoire expanding innovative music school for young children to include Hendon

An innovative music centre which provides young children with a wealth of musical opportunities is expanding its school to include Hendon.

Children tumble into world of Alice in Wonderland at Highgate United Reform Church

Children have been tumbling into the topsy-turvy world of Lewis Carroll as part of a action-packed project to teach youngsters how to perform.

Q and A: UCS Hampstead student, 17, creates app to help fellow pupils struggling with GCSEs revision

An app creator at the age of 17, we spoke to UCS Hampstead student Jonny Boone about why he took it upon himself to help fellow pupils with revision for their GCSE exams.

Portland Place School students walk, run and hop for charity in Regent’s Park ‘bunny run’

Students at Portland Place School walked, ran and hopped on a charity ‘bunny run’ to raise more than a thousand pounds for homeless charity Shelter.

St Anthony’s School for Girls students enjoy action-packed Easter celebrations

Students at St Anthony’s School for Girls had a cracking good time celebrating Easter at the end of the term.

Students at St Michael’s School parade Easter bonnets in Highgate

Students at St Michael’s School put their Easter bonnets on display during an annual parade in Highgate.

Highgate Primary School’s bid to build amphitheatre boosted by Bellway Homes

Highgate Primary School’s bid to raise £65,000 to build an amphitheatre in the playground has been boosted by the involvement of a housing developer.

Changes to free nursery places in Camden revealed

Changes to free nursery places in Camden have been revealed.

Whittington Trust launches competition to showcase work of budding artists in Archway hospital

An Archway hospital trust is launching an art competition designed to seek out budding artists from across north London.

Barnet parents encouraged to sign petition calling for fairer school funding

Parents across Barnet are being encouraged to sign a petition calling for fairer funding to schools across the borough.

Creativity is order of day at St Saviour’s Primary School

Creativity was the order of the day at St Saviour’s Primary School as students let their imaginations run wild.

New skipper appointed at Haverstock School ahead of headteacher’s retirement after 17 years of service

A new headteacher has been appointed at Haverstock School for the first time in 17 years.

Portland Place School deputy head gives her top 10 revision tips ahead of GSCE and A-level exams

Julia Findlater, deputy headteacher at Portland Place School, gives her top 10 tips for revision success.

Mother’s Day breakfast to raise money for chosen charities at St Anthony’s School for Girls

St Anthony’s School for Girls held a special Mother’s Day breakfast to celebrate their loved ones and to raise money for their two chosen charities.

Camden Council pledges to put mental health at forefront of agenda for young people living in borough

Camden Council has pledged to keep the subject of mental health at the forefront of the agenda in its bid to improve the wellbeing of young people living in the borough.

Army of kids take part in fun run to help secure future of Highgate Primary School family centre

The future of a family centre which is battling a lack of funding is closer to being secured after 127 children took part in a fun run.

Former MOBO award winner takes part in five-hour drumming marathon at King Alfred School

A former MOBO award winner took part in a five-hour drumming marathon at King Alfred School to raise money for Comic Relief on Red Nose Day.

Column: Hampstead couple talk through their experience of home schooling

Hampstead couple Haleh Babavand and her husband Ash Parsa spoke to the Ham and High about their experience of home schooling.

Henrietta Barnett School students reach final of competition to find codebreakers of future

A team of Hampstead schoolgirls have beaten 8,000 rivals to reach the final of a competition to find the best code breakers of the future.

St Anthony’s School for Girls students build robots and rockets as part of STEM week

Students at St Anthony’s School for Girls embraced new technology by building robots and rockets as part of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) week.

Fearless Coleridge Primary School students crowned public speaking champions

A group of fearless Coleridge Primary School students have taken a public speaking competition by storm.

Channing School gets dads on board as part of campaign to eradicate gender inequality in workplace

Channing School has been getting the dads on board as part of an awareness campaign to eradicate gender inequality in the workplace.

Campaign to address gender gap in apprenticeship schemes

A trust which supports young woman who are struggling to make ends meet is campaigning to address the gender gap in apprenticeship schemes.

Q and A: St Anthony’s School for Girls headteacher on her first year at helm

We spoke to St Anthony’s School for Girls headteacher Laura Martin about her first year at the helm.

Portland Place School students pay tribute to Jane Austen in year which marks 200th anniversary of her death

Students have paid tribute to pioneering author Jane Austen in the year which marks the 200th anniversary of her death.

Study: The rise of home schooling in Camden

A study looking into the growth of home education in London has revealed a 582 per cent increase in the number of children being taught at home over the last 10 years.

St Anthony’s School for Girls launches mindfulness initiative as part of focus on mental health

St Anthony’s School for Girls has launched a new mindfulness initiative to teach the pupils the importance of looking after their mental health and wellbeing.

Union calls on Theresa May to back up pledge to transform mental health support on offer in schools

A union has called on the government to back up its mission to change attitudes towards mental health issues suffered by young people.

Freedom Charity founder speaks to Haverstock School about fight to end practice of FGM

Education is the key to ending the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), according to the founder of an awareness charity.

South Hampstead High School teacher’s legacy celebrated by ex-students and colleagues

A South Hampstead High School stalwart has been celebrated more than 40 years after she retired.

Camden School for Girls student running debating programme to ensure state school kids get voices heard

A 15-year-old girl is running a debating programme to ensure that state school kids get their voices heard.

Animation encouraging children to talk about mental health launches in Primrose Hill

A short film to encourage children to talk about their feelings in the classroom was shown today at Primrose Hill Primary School.

Hampstead and Highgate duo on mission to talk to teens in schools about sex, likes and social media

A determined duo from across the pond who brought up their children in north west London are on a mission to encourage healthy relationships among young people and teach them about the many pitfalls surrounding social media.

Interview: Fiona Millar delves into her time at Camden School for Girls

We spoke to writer and education journalist Fiona Millar about her time at Camden School for Girls (1968-1975).

St Michael’s Primary School finds creative way to protest against Haringey funding cuts

Parents, students and staff at a Highgate school have found a creative way to protest against funding cuts across Haringey.

Crouch End families come together to spruce up area as part of Great British Spring Clean

The ‘Crouch End tidy up’ was in full swing on Saturday as families came together to spruce up the area.

PICTURE SPECIAL: Camden and Haringey schools celebrate World Book Day

Schoolchildren across Camden and Haringey have been sharing their love of fiction on World Book Day.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

2017 © Archant Community Media Ltd

Terms and conditions | Cookie policy | Jobs at Archant