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Interview with Actor Nick Lumley

We were delighted to interview Hungerford actor Nick Lumley on our 4LEGS Radio Show (click here to listen) recently. Nick regaled us with stories about working with Mike Leigh in Peterloo, his experiences in Paddington 2, advice for aspiring actors, his most embarrassing moment on stage, his upcoming West End part in Don Quixote, his forthcoming tenure as Constable of the Town and Manor of Hungerford, his obsession with rhubarb and his dream to play Fagan!

Nick came into the studio the day after shooting a new film, Eternal Beauty with Billy Piper and Sally Hawkins whom Nick also appeared with in Paddington 2 (Nick played an old lag Farmer Jack whom Sally, Paddington’s mother, met when she visited him in prison – along with 170 extras all in pink stripes!). Before he died, local author of Paddington, Michael Bond, was initially concerned about the plotline of Paddington going to prison but when he read the whole script his concerns were allayed. Nick reckons that Paddington 2 will be his most viewed role as it is such a blockbuster. He was picked up by a chauffeur-driven Mercedes every morning to be taken to set at Pinewood Studios.

Nick was also delighted to have a role in Mike Leigh’s Peterloo coming out next autumn, and worked with Mike Leigh for over a month to develop his own back story for his character of a magistrate who sent in the army against a peaceful demonstration near Manchester in 1819. With over 100 actors contributing their own backstories to the script, it is a very collaborative creative process with many voices. There were 80,000 people at the actual event but Mike Leigh managed to re-create the scene very effectively with 300 extras shot multiple times.

In the critically acclaimed, low budget Lady Macbeth Nick had a small part which was virtually non-existent on screen. Upstaged by the striking cat, Nick was hoisted on his own petard (positioning himself in what he thought was the prime position for a reverse shot).

Reminiscing of his time working on George Street in Liverpool (with Eric Sykes), Nick walked past where the Beatles early venue The Cavern used to be, only to discover that it had been pulled down to create a lawyer’s car park.  The building next door has been recreated as the Cavern and on the wall there is an inscription of the first lines of In My Life  (There are places I’ll remember all my life, though some have changed some forever, not for better. Some have gone and some remain….)

Nick turned 64 recently and growing older has been a benefit for his career. There are so many young, talented, attractive actors starting out with very little work to compete for but for someone of his age and experience there are more roles available. But if you really want to do it, you should go for it. You will visit extraordinary people and visit interesting places. It will enrich you and be character building even if you don’t make it as a career.

Nick recommends doing some training and making it a business rather than a hobby. You need to have an entrepreneurial attitude and agents are very useful, especially co-operative agencies where actors represent each other. Nick’s most embarrassing moment on stage was during a role he had in his mid-thirties as Sailor Jack in the Palm Court Theatre when he had to borrow a large pair of trousers from the bassoon player, missed his entrance and then ended up flat on his face…

Reprieving his role in Don Quixote, Nick will be performing at the Garrick Theatre over Christmas with David Threlfall and Rufus Hound.

The Town and Manor of Hungerford

Nick lives in a house on Hungerford High Street which has commoners rights as a dwelling has been there since 1168 (which means his garden is 800 years old). The land originally belonged to John O’Gaunt before he bequeathed it to the commoners of the town in the 1300s, granting them the right to fish on the river and graze cattle on the common.

At the Hocktide Court in April earlier this year (the medieval court still conducted by the Town and Manor of Hungerford every Easter) Nick, being one of many Commoners eligible to become Constable, indicated his willingness to serve as a future Constable. He was duly elected by the Commoners to become Constable Elect and was subsequently co-opted as a Trustee of the Town & Manor. The purpose of this is to ensure that the person most likely to be elected when the current Constable decides to stand down is ‘up to speed’ on the many complex issues and projects which the Trustees are currently dealing with.

At next year’s Hocktide, the Commoner officers of the Hocktide Court and will officially elect the next Constable, by due process as has happened for centuries.

Town and Manor which owns the Town Hall, the John O’Gaunt Pub, the common and Freemans Marsh – about 400 acres in total. For centuries there was a Town and Manor in every town across the country, operating much like a town council does today. Now there are only six constables left in Britain with 12 in Jersey.

There are only 40 chalk streams in world, and there are two running through Hungerford which the Town and Manor maintain very carefully, protecting water voles and other endangered wildlife.

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