Gary Bond and The Gallery Poets
One of Gary Bond's great loves was using his vocal talents on radio and in readings. Blessed with a clear and cultured speaking voice, poetry was the perfect medium for his reciting talents.
The Gallery Poets (later the Josephine Hart Poetry Hour) started in 1983, the brainchild of Josephine Hart:
"I started a company, Gallery Poets - Odette Gilbert kindly loaned me the use of her gallery in Cork Street. Tentatively... I approached Eileen Atkins, Alan Bates, Gary Bond, Eleanor Bron, Simon Callow, Edward Fox, Jeremy Irons, Sian Philips, Geraldine McEwan and Ian McDiarmid. And many others. Every actor I asked said yes. Over the years England's finest actors made their way to that small London gallery to read, for no fee ... Byron, Thomas, Auden and of course Larkin, Yeats and Eliot ...
Not everyone approves. Many are opposed to any public reading of poetry and especially by actors ... "I can't bear actors reading poetry," others say. Why not? The understanding of metre, rhythm, tone and the deep intuitive intelligence the trained actor brings to a poem can make it sing in your mind of years. Poetry after all comes from the oral tradition."
From the archive:
Clara Dwyer writes in The Independent, 4th February 2007:
Her [Hart's] husband, the public relations and advertising supremo Maurice Saatchi, knew that there was magic in action and so his wife set to work. She had her first poetry reading in a little gallery in Cork Street, just off Regent Street, where her friend Odette Gilbert told her that she would let her use the gallery for nothing.
"So I put this tiny ad in the Times saying that we were doing the poetry of WH Auden [on 14th December 1983] and that it would be read by Gary Bond. We hired chairs for the gallery and 150 people came that night. At the end of the evening, we asked, 'Would you like to come again? If so, leave your name and address with us.' They all registered, and we never had to put another ad in."
The poetry readings eventually grew too large for Odette Gilbert Gallery and moved to the British Library. They seem to have ceased in 2006. When compiling the information for this website I attempted to contact Ms Hart but the contact email address is no longer in existence, and her website has not been updated for some time. I hope it does continue in some form or other - there is no greater gift to an actor or their audience than the spoken word, especially poetry spoken aloud.
Addendum December 2010: it looks as if the readings are continuing as there is one at the National Theatre, London, in April 2011 - a special on Romantic poetry presented as part of a season of platform performances related to the new production of Frankenstein.
WWGB is sad to hear of the death of Josephine Hart, announced 4th June 2011. She had been suffering from ovarian cancer. Her last set of poetry readings ran at the Donmar Warehouse from the 30th May to 3rd June 2011. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.