An Evening with Julian Fellowes
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 9th November, 2011
Since its foundation 18 years ago, the Friends of Heath Library has organised 150 literary events in the 1930s single storey building that houses the library, right next door to glorious Keats’ House in Hampstead. The very first speaker was the novelist Margaret Drabble, whereas this evening, after the Friends’ AGM, its 150th visitor was the writer, actor, producer and Conservative life peer, Julian Fellowes. Invited to talk ‘for a few minutes’ about himself, he gave a wonderfully discursive and joyfully prolonged presentation of his life and works, nicely balancing the grandeur of success with a healthy dose of self-deprecation. Although he has won most of his plaudits (including an Oscar) for his writing for cinema and television, he is clearly still a thespian at heart: marvellous timing and cadence and lots of good jokes. He is of course currently flavour of the month (maybe even of the year), having built on the great success of the film Gosford Park with the even more successful TV series, Downton Abbey, for which he chose Highclere as the setting. He had some lovely tales of working with Robert Altman on the former and with Maggie Smith in the latter. He is also a great supporter of public libraries, including on his own home patch in Dorset. The Heath Library is one that the philistine Labour Council in Camden is closing, but the Friends — together with the City of London Corporation, who own the freehold on the property — hope to be able to put a package together which will mean that a privately-run library (employing both professional staff and volunteers) will keep the library functioning; but the City, in particular, will foster literary and other artistic events, including maybe creatng a small, secure exhibition space, in which they could, for example, have on display rare letters from John Keats, which are too vakuable to show at the less easily protected Keat’s House.