Memorial Service Held For Fenella Fielding OBE
Stars of stage and screen join with family and friends to pay tribute
Picture by Etienne Gilfillan
Fenella Fielding OBE's memorial service took place at St Paul's Church, Covent Garden, on Tuesday 28 May.
Rev Grigg began by announcing it was a 'full house' and added Fenella was always delighted to hear those words. And it's likely she'd have been delighted by what followed.
Eulogies from actor Gyles Brandreth touched on Fenella's life story - addressing her early struggles with parental disapproval. A eulogy from Mark Kermode reflected upon the woman he met later in her stunning career. In the 1990s, she went to review some films with him and when they discussed what they had seen he says he simply marvelled at how insightful she was.
Performance was of course the biggest part of the day. Early on, Fenella's eldest nephew, Nick Feldman performed a song from his 1980s band Wang Chung. Soon after, came the show's first big moment when Dame Cleo Laine duetted with her daughter Jacqui Dankworth. They sang 'I Will Miss You' from ‘Valmouth’- the show that made Fenella a star in 1958. Cleo also starred in that show. Now 91, she gave a beautiful reprise which was very moving and earned a standing ovation.
Readers of a Noel Coward piece included Anita Harris and Elizabeth Seal. Anecdotes about Fenella were read by a small cast that included Dame Sian Phillips and Debbie Arnold. Barry Cryer presented his own poetic tribute to Fenella, which, he said, was written while waiting for a laugh in Lowestoft.
There was more music, this time from 1980s Erasure singing star Andy Bell who was a perfect match for Fenella's favourite song 'They Can't Take That Away from Me'. The uncontainable talent of David McAlmont gave the show a big finish with 'Let's Face the Music and Dance'.
Just before the climax, there was a very sweet moment when Anya Hewett, an eleven-year-old from the Sylvia Young Theatre School, performed 'Nobody Loves A Fairy When She's Forty'. (Fenella performed this in her girlhood and again much later in life when it had additonal connotations when presented in a gay club in Fulham.) Anya, in her fairy costume, twinkled her wand and Fenella's great-niece, Philomena Epps, unveiled a new plaque in the church: 'Fenella Fielding OBE. Actress 1927-2018'. Another beautiful and moving moment... well deserving of the second standing ovation of the day.
Fenella was well represented in voice with recordings of her used to punctuate the one hour show. Included were her 1960s loudspeaker announcements taken from The Prisoner and a more recent recording of her reading the shipping forecast for Radio 4's 'PM'.
Among the attendees were Fenella's sister-in-law Lady Feldman; niece Alexandra Epps; nephews Nick and Steven Feldman and Fenella's close friend Simon McKay.
Familiar faces in the packed church included Prunella Scales, Timothy West, Vicki Michelle, Miriam Margolyes, Valerie Leon, Jacki Piper, Liza Goddard, Bonnie Langford, Rebecca Front, Carol Royle, Veronica Doran and Ricci Burns (Fenella's Vidal Sassoon hairdresser throughout the sixties).
Fenella's memorial was directed by Peter Benedict and
produced by Simon McKay.
June 1, 2019