Obituary: Primrose Hill author and journalist Brenda Colloms interviewed film stars and taught across Camden

PUBLISHED: 17:00 03 February 2014 | UPDATED: 19:29 03 February 2014

Primrose Hill writer Brenda Colloms

Primrose Hill writer Brenda Colloms


An “intelligent and forceful” author, teacher and journalist, who lived in Primrose Hill for nearly 50 years, has died aged 93.

During a highly prolific career, Brenda Colloms penned 18 books, hundreds of film reviews and interviews with screen greats such as Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, working well into her 70s.

She went on to teach at Wood Tutorial College in Heath Street, Hampstead, and at the Working Men’s College in Crowndale Road, Mornington Crescent, where she was a librarian for many years.

Martin Colloms, 65, the younger of her two sons, said she was a hard worker who was deeply committed to her students and always keen to help others.

Mr Colloms, a journalist of Flask Walk, Hampstead, said: “She was bubbly, outgoing, intelligent, forceful.

“She was always supportive and helpful of organisations and of people, she wanted to help students improve their performance and do well in life.

“She looked out for other people constantly.”

He added: “You would not forget her if you met her, she had a lively personality and a great interest in books and film.”

Born in Tottenham in 1919, her parents Jessie Ward and Harry Stenning were staunch socialists and Herbert Morrison, the Labour MP and deputy prime minister under Clement Attlee, was a witness at their wedding.

Having passed entrance exams to Cambridge, she left school to become a typist, before starting on her career as a film critic during the Second World War, writing reviews for the Ministry of Information.

She had met her first husband John Cross in the 1930s through her membership of left-wing Unity Theatre in King’s Cross, and they had two sons, Adrian and Martin.

After the war, with the family living in Highgate, she went to work for Metro Goldwyn Mayer, assessing books for their film potential before becoming a journalist at Picturegoer magazine.

She wrote reviews for the now-defunct magazine and in-depth interviews with such major stars as Vivien Leigh, Dirk Bogarde and Laurence Olivier.

In the 1950s, she divorced, and married her second husband Alun Hughes, an academic at Jesus College Oxford, before meeting the true love of her life in 1960, American civil rights lawyer Albert Lionel Colloms, who became her third husband.

The pair settled in Primrose Hill in 1966 and Mrs Colloms began working at Wood Tutorial College in Heath Street, behind today’s Tesco.

She also taught evening classes for many years at The Working Men’s College, Camden Town, becoming its librarian.

She had been a supporter of the Primrose Hill Association and helped lead the fight against government plans to move the M1 down Adelaide Road.

She lived in Primrose Hill until 2005, when she moved to sheltered accommodation at Compton Lodge near Swiss Cottage.

In later life, she worked to maintain the garden at Chalk Farm Library.

Mrs Colloms died in her sleep on December 23.

She is survived by her sons Adrian and Martin and stepson Michael, her six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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