Green Plaque for Michael Flanders to Be Unveiled in Bedford Park

His daughters will discuss his legacy at the Chiswick Book Festival

Flanders and Swann

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The life and work of Michael Flanders, the humourist and disability campaigner, is to be celebrated next month in Acton, Chiswick where he spent the last years of his life.

Flanders is best known for the comic songs he wrote and performed with Donald Swann in shows such as At The Drop of A Hat. He was one of the few performers to be seen on stage in a wheelchair and Flanders & Swann have been called “the most influential British double act” in comedy. His live theatre shows were huge hits in the UK, the US, Canada and Australia in the 1950s and 1960s.

On 14 September, Ealing Civic Trust will unveil a green plaque at 63 Esmond Road in Bedford Park where he lived from 1971 to 1975 with his wife Claudia and daughters Laura and Stephanie. Now prominent journalists, Laura and Stephanie will attend the event with members of the Trust. Later that evening, at a Chiswick Book Festival event, they will discuss their father’s impact on comedy and the world of disability with 'Comedy Chronicles' writer Graham McCann and the Festival director, Torin Douglas.

He 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' for day care in Acton and founded the charity Tripscope to champion better transport and access for the disabled

Stephanie Flanders, the former BBC economics editor, made a Radio 4 programme about her father in 2007 and wrote about it for BBC News in an article, ‘Rediscovering my father’ .

"I think the fact you've got Michael Flanders in a wheelchair sitting up on stage is pretty pioneering," his biographer and archivist, Leon Berger told her. "I can't think of a single example, certainly not in the UK, of a public figure who's been disabled."

Graham McCann has called Flanders & Swann “the most influential British double act” in comedy, ahead of Morecambe & Wise, The Two Ronnies and Peter Cook & Dudley Moore.

He wrote, “Michael Flanders and Donald Swann have had a profound and lasting impact not only on British comedy and music, but also on just about every other major point and place in the panorama of British entertainment over the last sixty years. The sad thing is: it's sort of a secret. Flanders and Swann just don't get mentioned much these days”. See ‘The Remarkable Legacy of Flanders & Swann’ on the British Comedy Guide website.

‘Celebrating Michael Flanders (& Swann)’ will be held at 7pm at the ActOne Cinema in the Old Library, Acton, not far from the Michael Flanders Centre in Church Street, which Claudia opened in his honour after her husband’s death. It will be sponsored by British Comedy Guide. Tickets, price £8, are on sale on the Chiswick Book Festival website.

ActOne is in the final stages of crowdfunding for a Second Screen and is holding a drinks reception from 6pm that evening, at which its directors will give an update on the campaign. Pledges can be made on SpaceHive.

In 2018, English Heritage unveiled a blue plaque to Michael Flanders & Donald Swann in Scarsdale Villas, Kensington, where they had both lived and worked.

The Chiswick Book Festival recently added Michael Flanders to its Writers Trail, which celebrates notable novelists, playwrights, poets and lyricists who have lived in Chiswick.

You can now buy tickets for this September’s Chiswick Book Festival and places at the most popular events are likely to sell out quickly.

The event runs from 7-14 September and full details and ticket information can be found on the festival website.


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August 28, 2022

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