The satirist, dramatist, author and actor, Alan Bennett, celebrates his 80th Birthday on 9th May.
Alan was born in the Armley area of Leeds, the son of a butcher, his father also played the violin. He plied his trade on Armley Lodge Road just above the J.W. Roberts asbestos factory. Alan was educated at Upper Armley National and Leeds Modern Boys School, spending much of his young life reading at Armley Library. Alan Bennett, like me, loves satire and social commentary. In 1960 he came to prominence at the Edinburgh Festival, appearing with Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore in a satirical review, ‘Beyond the Fringe’, that he co-wrote. Over the years Alan has written for radio, the stage, TV and the cinema.
Thirty years ago at the age of 50, Alan’s first film, which he wrote, ‘A Private Function’ was released. Starring Michael Palin and Maggie Smith, it was filmed in Yorkshire in areas such as Ilkley, Ben Rhydding, Bradford and Bolton Abbey. The film was set in 1947 in a small village which was busy preparing to celebrate the wedding of Princess Elizabeth, with a plan to fatten a pig that would then be devoured on the big night. Backing for the film came from George Harrison’s company, ‘Handmade Films’ and Alan spent a great deal of time on location. He would later develop a Royal theme in his successful film, ‘The Madness of King George’.
In 2004 he had success on his 70th Birthday with ‘The History Boys’, a semi-autobiographical return to his Yorkshire roots, set in a Grammar School.
Alan Bennett is a private man, who has kept close to his family. He was a founder member of the Settle and District Civic Society formed in November 1968. This became the North Craven Heritage Trust in 1978 and Alan was the President from January 1969 until 1993. He is a regular visitor to the area.
Have A Happy Birthday Alan From The Yorkshire Reporter!
As part of the season, West Yorkshire Playhouse will present a selection of Alan Bennett’s work, from full stage plays to intimate and perfectly formed autobiographical memoirs.
It will explore his writing which is both funny and dark, poignant and menacing, to display the amazing diversity of form and content which he has deployed throughout his inspirational career.
Part of this will be Alan headlining The Big Bookend. As Fiona Gell, Co-ordinator of the Leeds Big Bookend, said, “The Big Bookend is all about celebrating Leeds’ rich literary heritage and its future talent. In the run up to this year’s festival, our writing competitions with Leeds school pupils will uncover the new talent, and our Leeds Story Cycle will bring together the communities around Leeds through interactive and creative writing.
“With book launches, author Q&As, spoken word and discussions with Leeds writers throughout the weekend, the Big Bookend has a fantastic line-up of events for the city to get involved with. Alan Bennett will be its pinnacle and the culmination of our festival.”
Alan Bennett will headline the Big Bookend festival on Sunday 8th June 2014, 2pm at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. For booking information, visit http://www.wyp.org.uk/what’s-on/ or call the box office on 0113 213 7700.