My Hampstead: Lord Melvyn Bragg would not change a thing about Hampstead

Lord Melvyn Bragg. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Lord Melvyn Bragg. Picture: Nigel Sutton. - Credit: Archant

Labour peer Lord Melyvn Bragg is one of Britain’s most notable broadcasters, best known as editor and presenter of The South Bank Show. The 74-year-old has lived in Hampstead Hill Gardens, Hampstead, for 40 years.

What brought you to Hampstead?

I hitched to London when I was 18 and stayed with my girlfriend in a minute flat in Elsworthy Road. While I was at university I came to Hampstead and stayed with a close friend, Alan Blaikley, in Hampstead Garden Suburb. I discovered the Heath and The Everyman. As a family we moved to Hampstead in 1969 to Gayton Road. Wanderlust took us three streets down to Hampstead Hill Gardens a few years later, and we’ve been there ever since.

You have a day off to spend as you wish in the area, what would you get up to?

I would go for at least one walk on the Heath, which is what most keeps me in Hampstead. I would potter round the old village and just appreciate the grandeur and the back alleys and the variety of it all. I would take some friends to see Kenwood House. I would round off the day with dinner at the Villa Bianca, and might have had fish and chips at the Fish Café for lunch. Any unfilled bits in between would be sitting on a bench in the sun (which would be obligatory) reading on the Heath. I’ve never done that.

What makes Hampstead a special place to live?

Its history, its architectural charms, the people I know, the variety of shops which gives me everything I want, the reasonable proximity to London, but most of all the inexhaustible Heath.

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Is there anything about Hampstead which you would like to see changed or improved?

No, I think we’re very lucky.

A film is set to be made about your life. Which actor would you choose to play you?

Emma Thompson? But perhaps she’ll be unavailable, so some unknown from the North who looks like a young Albert Finney and would do great things if he got half the chance. I would be that half.

Who is the most inspiring person you have ever met?

My history teacher at school, Mr James. He’s now 93 and completely in possession of all his faculties. We meet in Cumbria regularly at my cottage and two or three weeks ago he held forth on the dangers to the UK of an independent Scotland. He was particularly acute on the effect it would have on Northern Ireland. He then talked about Richard II...

If you had to write your own epitaph, what would it say?

Oh dear! Let’s leave that blank for the moment.

Lord Bragg was in conversation with Tim Lamden