The Independent London Newspaper
23rd April 2019

John Gulliver - Marjorie: roll on the next century

    Marjorie Vennell celebrates her century

    Marjorie: roll on the next century

    MARJORIE Vennell’s amazing life of 100 years spans the history of Gospel Oak, because that’s where she has lived all her life.
    And on Saturday Marjorie will arrive in chauffeur-driven style at All Hallows Church in Courthorpe Road – which she first attended at the age of six – in her very own Rolls Royce.
    When I met her this week I had to ask the question: What do you put your longevity down to?
    And back came the reply: keep-fit classes and netball in her younger days!
    Now she is looking forward to seeing the Olympics in 2012, though the last time she went to the Games in London 61 years ago it poured with rain.
    Marjorie lived above her mother’s sweet shop in Lismore Road for 18 years, before moving to Roderick Road where she lived for 46 years while working as a silk screen printer and professional knitter. She never married, and now lives in Mansfield Road on the site where her childhood home in Lismore Circus once stood.
    “I remember when the air was full of doodlebugs. I was walking down the street one night and one was coming towards me,” she said. “I was terrified but I ran towards it and let it go over my head.”
    Marjorie also recalls the night St Paul’s Cathedral was bombed.
    “I was coming out of a shelter on Rosslyn Hill and I could see St Paul’s cathedral surrounded by flames. They had tried to bomb the dome but the bomb bounced off it.”
    At her party on Saturday, Marjorie will be presented with the Order of St Mellitus for long service to the church, which has been a stone’s throw from her door all her life. She has no plans to move.
    “Go into a home? No thank you. I can look after myself,” she said.
    “I was brought up in this church. The first-ever funeral here was my grandmother’s, and when they had run out of money to finish building it my grandparents collected money every week in an envelope for the bricks.”


    Playwright Leslie Caplan in new territory

    Now this is my equivalent of those “bright young things” articles which regularly fill a page or two in Sunday supplements – featuring a list of talented writers, architects and designers tipped for the top.
    Well, it’s hardly a list in my case – just one name: Leslie Caplan. And as for bright young thing, well 71 is not old these days.
    Leslie, a journalist and broadcaster who lives in Belsize, has written hundreds of plays, including ones for Camden Community Radio, but he now has one – Occupied Territory – that he wants to see staged.
    Through a mutual friend, he ran it past the excellent George Eugeniou of Theatro Technis who liked it so much the theatre is staging a reading of it tonight (Thursday, December 10) at 7.30pm.
    Leslie hopes this is his first step to a full theatrical production.
    Oh, and he has a couple of novels he wants to see published.
    Leslie also recently wrote an innovative version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which the heroine has conversations with Tolstoy’s character Count Vronsky, lover of Anna Karenina.
    You can hear this on Camden Community Radio’s website at: www.canstream.co.uk/camden
    and if you do, you will understand why I’m tipping Leslie for the top.


    Big Max! Leading part for young star

    I AM delighted that eight-year-old Max Craig was chosen by the famous English National Opera company for the pivotal part of Christ the Child in their production of Handel’s Messiah at the Coliseum this week.
    Max, who attends Christopher Hatton Primary in Holborn, was spotted by a choreographer as he performed in a show at the London Contemporary Dance School, which he attends every Saturday.
    His mother Hannah Sawtell told me he was swiftly chosen as the sole child to play Christ during nine performances over two and half weeks, ending tomorrow (Friday).
    Ms Sawtell, who lives with Max in the Brunswick Centre, Bloomsbury, said the role, which required him to play a “positive, energetic child”, could have been written especially for him.
    “The role works for him because that’s exactly what he is,” she said, adding that it was spookily suitable for him in other ways.
    “I don’t believe in fate, but there are a few strange coincidences,” she added.
    “We live right next to Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital, which was funded by Handel.
    “And we live in Handel Street in a building called Foundling Court.”
    Apparently, Max was a big hit with the adult performers, particularly the alto who knitted him a scarf.


    Emma’s best supporting role

    CAMPAIGNING film-maker Chris Reeves received £1,000 in the post after he had appealed for funds for a film he wants to make – and he wasn’t surprised.
    It came from the Oscar-winning actor Emma Thompson who lives in West Hampstead.
    “Well, she is always willing to back good causes – and this is a good cause,” he told me at his King’s Cross home.
    Thompson’s cheque came in response to an appeal from Chris for donations to help make a documentary about long jail sentences handed out to trade unionists in the mid-70s after a successful building workers’ strike in Shrewsbury.
    One went on to become a big name in TV – Ricky Tomlinson.
    But another, who served three years, Des Warren, never regained his health after his release, and died from a debilitating disease.
    Ricky Tomlinson described the sentences as “Justice my arse!”
    “And that’s what Emma Thompson probably thought,” said Chris.
    Chris needs at least £10,000 to make the film, titled Justice for the Shrewsbury 24.
    The film should help boost a growing campaign for a pardon for all those convicted more than 35 years ago.
    A submission that there has been a miscarriage of justice is now being made to the Criminal Case Review Commission.
    Chris, who has made films on the 1984 miners’ strike and the Gulf War, will be celebrating his 57th birthday at a party at The Harrison’s Arms in King’s Cross on Saturday evening.

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