Roy Hudd

Roy Hudd, Age Exchange Patron, a tribute

By Malcolm Jones
Arts & Education Coordinator, Age Exchange

Age Exchange was very sad to hear of the passing of Roy Hudd, a patron of Age Exchange since 2007. We were delighted when, while he was performing in the West End in 2008, he came to do a fundraising Lunch and Listen with his wife Debbie at the Clarendon Hotel. He shared many wonderful stories from his long career in the theatre, radio and TV. He even discovered a couple of people  in the audience that he knew and he stayed and signed copies of his autobiography ‘A Fart in a Colander’ and chatted to people long after the interview had finished.

I had known Roy since I worked at the Theatre Museum in the 1990s. He was a willing and generous contributor to my events programme talking about pantomime, variety theatre and music hall with equal enthusiasm and expertise.

We were once filmed at the Theatre Museum for a German TV company for a feature about the English Pantomime. Roy would talk about Panto and I talked about the relevant Museum collection. Obviously there were gaps during the afternoon in filming when it was a huge joy to sit next to Roy listening to all his stories about the great artistes of panto and variety especially in the midst of our theatre collection where every photograph or object held a memory.

He also contributed to workshops and panels at the Museum about different stars of the past and all aspects of performing. One forgets how successful and good Roy was as a straight actor in theatre and on television in roles from Ormondroyd, the photographer, in J.B. Priestley’s When We Are Married to the ‘mother afflicted’ Ben Beglin in Denis Potter’s Karaoke in partnership with the wonderful Liz Smith.

When I joined Age Exchange we approached Roy to be a Patron as his respect and love of the history of entertainment and delight in hearing and telling stories seemed to make him an obvious ‘reminiscence practitioner’. He was very interested when I called him as he understood immediately how important the stories of ‘real people’ are as part of history. He knew that performers were nobody without an audience and an audience carried their own memories with them after the show. Roy, with his extensive knowledge of popular entertainment, loved what Age Exchange stood for in valuing individual reminiscence and personal memories. He was always glad to hear of new projects particularly those theatrical or film projects involving older participants themselves as performers. I sent him DVDs of our work which he enjoyed, particularly Children of the Great War, The Unity Show and Bermondsey Girl. We went to see Roy in both his pantos at Wilton’s Theatre only 3 or 4 years ago when for the first time in his life he played Pantomime Dame. Despite the fact he was already in his 80s, and doing two shows a day, he still found time to be welcoming and we chatted about the show and Roy asked how things were with us and Age Exchange and for some reason that linked it all together we ended up talking about Wilson, Keppel and Betty!

We are hoping that in autumn or in 2021 we might be able to do a reminiscence project with the Club for Artistes and Actors in Covent Garden, a place Roy knew well. It will be a great shame he won’t around as he would have been an enthusiastic contributor to our work with the retired variety artistes.