Chris Wadsworth
Percy Kelly - Looking East to the Ennerdale Fells
Writer and Art Consultant

16th April 2013


No, not Thatcher but Joan Bakewell who is 80 today. She has done more for the arts than anyone else I know.

As a very young mother in the Sixties who dared to have a job as well as a family, she was my role model. She fronted Late Night Line up which was on television every night and it was unmissable. She was (and still is) articulate, glamorous, knowledgable and pioneered the role of women in television as an incisive interviewer - not afraid to express an opinion however controversial.

As a northerner, a scholarship girl who was expected to make marriage and family my career she was inspirational. She proved it could be done. She gave me and others like me the confidence to go against the norm in a much smaller, less public way.

To claim her as a friend would be absurdly presumptious but our paths have converged many times - the last at the Portico prize giving when we were both short listed (and neither won!).

A few years ago in Cortona a friend and I visited the Etruscan Museum. 'I've always thought the Etruscans were Greek' was my ill informed comment as we went in. A stern voice behind put me right - it was Joan. She took charge, walked round with us and explained the evolution of Italy succinctly. 'Now you know' she said as we left - and we did!

She is now putting the same energy into speaking for the older people among us ( now a majority). She was filmed in her home just before Christmas, stressing our importance on News at Ten. To finish she picked up a Christmas card and placed it on her mantlepiece. It was my Michael Bennett card. (you too may have got one from me - if you didn't I apologise!) I was astonished and dead chuffed as they'd say in the north.

Joan Bakewell has no side. She is still an inspiration. She looks about sixty - wonderful, unaffected, modern and still unafraid to say what she thinks.


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