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A wonderful John Betjeman double bill. In ‘Betjeman’s London’ entertainment writer Peter Gammond presents a guide to the late Poet Laureate’s home town of London. Betjeman was born in Kentish Town, and later lived in Highgate and Chelsea; he loved the city’s architecture, railway stations, theatres and pubs, and all his favourite haunts are revisited here. ‘Betjeman’s Britain’ traces Betjeman’s footsteps through his favourite haunts in Norfolk, North Cornwall and London.
Sir John Betjeman was born on the fringes of Kentish Town. He soon moved, with his family, into adjacent Highgate. By the time he was at school in Marlborough and Oxford, the family had moved to Chelsea.
In his early married life he lived in White Horse country, but commuted daily to London to labour on the Architectural Review in Westminster. Thereafter he kept a pad in the city so that he could write as a film critic, book reviewer, Fleet Street journalist throughout his career, and later in his extensive work for radio and television which made him well-known to a large public.
In his last years he returned to a home in Chelsea where he held court to his peers and admirers.
His deepest love was for architecture, and he found much to treasure in London, most notably in the City, packed full of wonderful churches and the work of geniuses like Christopher Wren, and especially in London’s railway stations whose individuality and life held a special fascination. He enjoyed its theatres and eating places and pubs, he feared its crowds and felt its loneliness.
This film follows Betjeman’s life, career and interests in London, bringing to life the many words that he expended on it. Anyone who has read his thoughts on this great city will find them greatly enhanced by seeing the places he wrote about and may be led to discover more off-the-beaten tracks than they knew existed.
The programme is written and presented by Peter Gammond, a well-known writer on music and entertainment, who has always been a Betjeman addict and collector and a chairman of the The Betjeman Society.
He is, to thousands, the Laureate of Britain, the poet of place, one of the world’s great travel writers – unique in that he did much of his work in verse.
In the course of a busy life as a poet, journalist and broadcaster, he seemed to go almost everywhere. Through his poetry and, less obviously, the reams of equally sparkling prose that he contributed to magazines and newspapers (much of which is now hidden in the archives), he wrote with humour, affection and insight about the places, the people and the buildings that he saw with a true poet’s vision.
This film traces his steps and words round many of the places he enjoyed and celebrated. Anyone who loves his poems will find them greatly enhanced by seeing the actual places featured in his work; the scenes being backed by readings of his poetry and prose, with occasional glimpses of the great man himself.
This programme is also written and presented by Peter Gammond.