Tributes paid to Belsize Park poet and performer

PUBLISHED: 17:46 19 May 2015 | UPDATED: 17:46 19 May 2015

Beata Duncan

Beata Duncan


A much-loved Belsize Park poet and performer has passed away at the age of 93.

Beata Susanna Duncan, née Rehfisch, died from a stroke on April 23.

Beata was born on August 3, 1921 in Berlin to a distinguished and creative family: her father Hans Rehfisch, was described as ‘the most succesful playwright of the Weimar period’, and her mother Lilli Dora Rehfisch, was an early Adlerian psychoanalist.

In 1934 Beata and her older brother Tom emigrated as refugees to England, at first to the famous Bunce Court School, before settling in Belsize Park. Her mother Lilli, uncle Paul, aunt Toni and cousin Eva-Marie remained in Germany, eventually to be murdered by the Nazi regime, a loss that was to deeply affect both Beata and Tom.

Beata, while studying and working in London throughout the War, witnessed and survived the Blitz.

She gained a History degree from Birkbeck, University of London, and it was at Birkbeck that she first met her husband Adrian, who was to become a psychology lecturer after the war, only to die at the age of 37.

With little support Beata raised her children as a single parent on a succession of part-time occupations, including school and college librarian, researcher for the Encyclopaedia Britannica, tutor, and editor.

But it was her love and enthusiasm for literature and poetry that was her main focus, studying English Literature at University College London, attending poetry events – including one of the last London readings by Dylan Thomas, and pursuing her own literary research into the lives of Virginia Woolf and D H Lawrence.

Beata also contributed to many local journals and campaigned assiduously for the preservation of libraries.

Writing poetry became the core of her creative life, and she received recognition for her competition-winning work, which was published in numerous anthologies, and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 ’s ‘Poetry Please’.

Beata developed a distinctive style of public reading, and performed at libraries, pubs, bookshops and theatres.

Her poetry of life in NW3, her growing family and memories of her childhood in Berlin were balanced with a shy but witty delivery.

Beata is survived by her son Stephen and her adored grandchildren, Robert, Ifor and Gabriella.

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