Michael Palin and Lee Montague to host First World War event for Hampstead library

Veteran actor Lee Montague will host a star-studded Remembrance event in aid of a community library next week.

Fellow thespian Robert Powell and comedy star Michael Palin will join Mr Montague, 87, for the First World War-themed event 1914-18: Memories on Thursday, November 13.

Mr Montague has spent months researching the First World War to put together a programme of readings including poems, letters from the front line, extracts from the Wipers Times, the magazine published by soldiers, and stories from the Ham&High.

The audience will also be invited to join in with memorable songs from the day.

He said: “A lot of wars are senseless, but this seemed to be really high up in the league of being absolutely senseless.


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“At the same time, it produced some extraordinarily fine poetry and accounts by people that are so evocative, atmospheric and sensitive.

“There’s such a wealth of material and when I started looking it was very distressing, and the difficulty was to try and find the right balance, between the very awful occurrences and, at the same time, the lighter aspects.

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“I think the programme will provide a different look at the war. It’s a mixture of different emotions; I hope the mixture works into an evening of entertainment and memories.”

Mr Montague visited Holborn Library to trawl through the Ham&High archives in preparation.

“It was absolutely wonderful to be able to actually handle 100-year-old copies of the Ham&High,” he said.

“I was particularly interested in some of the pieces which talk about the war in a more domestic way – the way it affected the local community.”

Of the Wipers Times, he added: “It was an extraordinary effort to be able to bring some sort of sardonic humour to the trenches.”

As well as commemorating the Great War in the centenary year of its outbreak, the evening will raise much-needed funds for Keats Community Library, in Keats Grove.

Mr Montague is a trustee of the library, which is near his South End Green home and was taken over by the community after Camden Council withdrew funding in 2012.

He said Michael Palin and Robert Powell both agreed to take part “immediately”.

? 1914-18: Memories is on Thursday, November 13, from 7.30pm in the Peter Samuel Hall, at the Royal Free Hospital, Pond Street. Tickets £15 from wegottickets.com or the library.

Other Remembrance events include services at St Pancras Church, 10am Sunday; the prisoner of war memorial in Mornington Crescent, 1pm Sunday; and on Tuesday, at the Whitestone Pond War Memorial and Hampstead Cemetery, Fortune Green, both at 10.30am. A service will be held at Golders Green Clock Tower Memorial at 10.45am on Sunday.

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