Jun 24

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Famous names in our midst

In our celebrity driven popular culture claims to fame and local connections to well known faces abound…currently the most well known  being Lewis Hamilton and Alesha Dixon. Recently two more have come to our attention. One internationally famous and living, the other less so but still a worthy mention here. Anthony Buckeridge (1912 -2004) wrote 25 books about the errant and cunning schoolboy Jennings.  As a child, once you had read all the Just William books, and you were hitting teenage years, the adventures of Jennings were very appealing. Jennings books were laden with humour and ill conceived schoolboy schemes which inevitably went wrong. You could aptly summarise the adventures of Jennings with a lyric from Baggy Trousers by Madness ‘All I learnt at school, was how to bend and break the rules’. Jennings books were funny and well written page turners. Anthony Buckeridge moved to WGC as a child in 1924 and lived in Handside Lane and then Russellcroft road. He was a playright who also acted in local theatre group productions. He moved away before finding serious fame with the Jennings series which sold in their millions. The books are ageless and are still available to buy on Amazon today. You have to wonder how much his formative years in WGC influenced the stories and characters in his books. Perhaps we have another blue plaque candidate here?

Jennings schoolboy reading












Mike Leigh probably needs no introduction. A prolific playwright, film director, and social commentator. His many films dig deep into the British psyche and examine issues of class, race and gender. Britain has produced many successful film directors and many have been lured by Hollywood. Not Mike Leigh, his films are usually character led stories bounded in gritty working class British settings. His contribution to British film and the arts is phenomenal and his exploration of contemporary social issues and human relationships is almost without equal. Abigail’s Party, Secrets and Lies, Vera Drake…there are many more. He has directed 23 films to date.

Mike Leigh, born in Welwyn Garden City












It appears that he was born at Brocket Hall in 1943, although he was raised in Salford, Greater Manchester. His mother was admitted to Brocket Hall which operated as a Red Cross maternity hospital from 1939 to 1949. Brocket Hall took in many expectant mothers from City Road hospital in London, which was bombed several times during the war.  There is a detailed synopsis of Mike Leigh’s work on Wikipedia here.

Mike Leigh clearly spent a very brief time in Welwyn Hatfield, but as he recently picked up an honorary degree from Manchester’s Metropolitan University he was recognised as being a son of our area. See local paper article here.

We hope that Mr Leigh still has many more cinematic social explorations up his sleeve.

There of course many other famous names associated with our area, these are just two.

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