Actor Simon Callow backs ‘sexy’ Hampstead library with one-man show

Simon Callow is backing Keats Community Library

Simon Callow is backing Keats Community Library - Credit: Nigel Sutton

It is not the sort of language most people would use when discussing libraries – no matter how highly they value them.

But actor Simon Callow this week described libraries as “sexy” and “glamorous” places that are “full of allure”.

The star, 63, was speaking to the Ham&High ahead of hosting a fundraiser for a community-run Hampstead library close to his heart.

He has cleared space in his packed diary to stage a one-man show in aid of the Keats Community Library, in Keats Grove, on Monday, April 29.

It was saved from closure almost exactly a year ago by volunteers, after being deemed surplus to requirements by Camden Council.

Mr Callow said: “For me, libraries have always been extremely glamorous places. I have always found them sexy and full of allure.

“That particular little one [Keats Community Library] is such a charming, welcoming and elegant little place. It would be terrible to see it go.”

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The acclaimed actor, director and writer is now a patron of the former Heath Library, where he has many fond memories from his days living nearby as a struggling young actor in the 1970s.

He also branded as “heroes” the volunteers who have taken it on – and vowed to do whatever he can to help their cause.

“I lived on Willow Road shortly after leaving drama school from about 1973 to 1979,” he said. “I’m very fond of the area, that part of Hampstead by the Heath is one of the most beautiful parts of London.

“The library was a fantastic resource for me – actors need books, they need to devour them, and the library was an absolutely indispensable resource.

“I’m happy to do anything I can to support it. I’m always shocked whenever I hear that a library is closing, but that particular one was the most shocking of all.

“It isn’t their job [the volunteers] and they shouldn’t be doing it, but no one else is going to. They’re heroes for taking it on.”

In what the people behind Keats Community Library are describing as the “must-see” event of the spring calendar in Hampstead, Mr Callow will host a 90-minute show titled Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World: An Evening with Simon Callow.

It will be held not at the library, but the larger Peter Samuel Hall in the nearby Royal Free Hospital, in order to meet the expected demand for tickets.

“Dickens never paid for a book until he was already a successful writer in his mid-20s,” added Mr Callow who now lives in Islington. “If it had not been for public libraries, who knows how his mind would have been formed?

“Books are so expensive now, and I should know because I write them, but money should not be a barrier to learning. Libraries are an incredibly cost-effective way of making stuff available to people easily.”

Steven Bobasch, chairman of the board of trustees at Keats Community Library, said: “We are thrilled that Simon Callow has offered to give a performance of his famous one-man show. It is a great start to our second year and we are most grateful to him.”

n Tickets are £15 (concessions £8) and are available at the library or from Entrance to the Peter Samuel Hall is in Rowland Hill Street.