Two More Names Added To Chiswick Writers Trail

Humourists Michael Flanders and Stephen Potter latest to join list

Michael Flanders (left) with Donald Swann. Picture: BBC

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Ttwo internationally celebrated humourists, Michael Flanders (At The Drop of a Hat, The Hippopotamus Song) and Stephen Potter (Gamesmanship), have been added to Chiswick’s Writers Trail. .

They are the latest of a dozen names being added to the list, which features acclaimed writers who lived in Chiswick or had strong connections with the area. Already included are WB Yeats, Harold Pinter, Dame Iris Murdoch, John Osborne, WM Thackeray, Alexander Pope, Sir John Betjeman, EM Forster, JG Ballard, Anthony Burgess and Nancy Mitford.

Michael Flanders was a writer and performer of comic songs and opera librettos, as well as an actor, broadcaster and disability campaigner. With pianist Donald Swann, his live theatre shows At The Drop of A Hat and At The Drop of Another Hat were popular in the UK, the US, Canada and Australia in the 1950s and 1960s. From 1971 to 1975, he lived at 63 Esmond Road, Bedford Park W4, with his wife Claudia and daughters Laura and Stephanie Flanders, who both became prominent journalists. Ealing Civic Society has recently erected a green plaque on the house which will be formally unveiled later this year.

Michael Flanders contracted polio in 1943 while serving in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and for the rest of his life was reliant on a wheelchair. His ashes are scattered in the gardens of Chiswick House, where he loved to sit in the afternoons. After Michael's death in 1975, Claudia was asked to open the 'Michael Flanders Centre' in Acton and founded the charity Tripscope to champion better transport and access for the disabled. He was one of the few performers to be seen on stage in a wheelchair and Flanders & Swann have been called the most influential comedy double act in Britain.

Stephen Potter was a lecturer in English at London University and BBC producer, who wrote a novel and studies of DH Lawrence and Coleridge, but found fame through his self-help parody, Gamesmanship, which purported to show how poor players can beat better ones by subtle psychological ploys. This became an international best-seller and led to a series of sequels and screen adaptations and the words Gamesmanship and One-Upmanship passed into the language. Stephen Potter lived in Chiswick Mall W4, at Thames Bank Villa and Riverside House, from 1927 to 1942. ‘The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship: or The Art of Winning Games Wihout Actually Cheating’ was written in 1947, followed by Lifemanship (1950), One-Upmanship (1952) and Supermanship (1958). The books were adapted for the cinema in the 1960s (as School For Scoundrels, scripted by Peter Ustinov) and for BBC Television in the 1970s, starring Richard Briers, another Chiswick resident famous for comedy.

Richard Briers with Peter Jones appearing in a TV adaptation of Stephen Potter's work
Richard Briers with Peter Jones appearing in a TV adaptation of Stephen Potter's work

Read more on the Chiswick Book Festival website: ‘Michael Flanders and Stephen Potter, Humourists.’

Earlier this month, two poets, Dylan Thomas and James Berry, were added to the Writers Trail.

Torin Douglas, director of the Chiswick Book Festival, said, “It is remarkable how many great and much-loved writers have made their home in Chiswick and we are delighted to bring their local connections to wider recognition. We’ll be announcing more names in the next two weeks, leading up to WB Yeats’s birthday on June 13th, which will be celebrated at the annual Poetry Evening in the Bedford Park Festival.”

The current Writers Trail map, sponsored by Horton and Garton, can be picked up in St Michael & All Angels Church or downloaded here.

The 56th Bedford Park Festival will take place from 10 June 10 to 26 June 2022.

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May 29, 2022

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