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Home Page  >  Special Interest  >  Literature  >  Betjeman's London (Video)


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Sir John Betjeman CBE, Poet Laureate from 1972 until he died in 1984, lives on in the nation's memory as poet of places. There were very special associations with Cornwall where he spent most of his holidays and is now buried; with Norfolk where happy boyhood weeks were spent; with Oxford where he was educated and nourished many friendships; with the Vale of the White Horse where he had his country homes, and with Ireland and the . But it should not be forgotten, in the face of his widespread largesse, that he was a Londoner, born within the sound of Bow Bells - if it was a quiet day and the wind was in the right direction - brought up in London, working all his life in London, and living in the City and latterly Chelsea for most of his career.

He was born on the fringes of Kentish Town; soon moving with his family more securely into adjacent Highgate where he was primarily educated. 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, hack 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. And 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, espacially 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 video follows his life, career and interests in London, bringing to life the many words that he expended on it. Anyone who has read his thougths 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 is currently chairman of the The Betjeman Society.





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