Sir Derek Jacobi lends support to Primrose Hill library campaign

Actor Sir Derek Jacobi has revealed how his own personal love affair with books launched his career. The star gave a rare public talk about his career in support of Primrose Hill Community Library at Cecil Sharp House in Regent’s Park Road last week.

The veteran I, Claudius and Gladiator actor, who has lived in Primrose Hill for 33 years, spoke about his career and read excerpts from Shakespeare’s works while in conversation with Dame Joan Bakewell.

The actor said he had used Primrose Hill Community Library extensively and spoke about his personal love affair with reading rooms.

He said: “I started my career in a library. There were no books at home. I was never read to as a child. It was never part of my family’s world.

“Somehow I recognised that lack and my own need. So off my own back I joined the library in Leytonstone.”

He added: “I was an active member of the library between the ages of seven and 10. It was my lifeline to literature.

“When I was 10, I got rheumatic fever. I was in bed for six months. They supplied me with books.”

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He also said that he had performed in a play at the library, adding that he had worn “the best frocks” because his mother had worked in a draper’s shop.

Sir Derek, who was asked by friends of the library to speak, also talked about starting as a young actor, his time at Cambridge, performing Hamlet and his preference for stage rather than film roles.


Sir Derek, 73, who has played Hamlet 400 times on stage, said he was unlikely to be seen in the role again due to his age.

He is currently rehearsing for George Bernard Shaw’s play Heartbreak House, which will run at the Chichester Festival Theatre from July 6.

The event raised nearly �6,000 for Primrose Hill Community Library in Sharpleshall Street, which was known as Chalk Farm Library before it was taken over by the community this year after Camden Council withdrew core funding.