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Live from Primrose Hill Library, cinema audiences tune into Alan Bennett’s diaries talk

Nation's favourite playwright is beamed across cinema screens from NW1

17 November, 2016 — By Ella Jessel

After the broadcast: Alan Bennett with Marijke Good, the library’s chairwoman

A LIBRARY was awash with film crews last night (Wednesday) as a question and answer session with playwright Alan Bennett was broadcast live to cinema audiences across the country.

Around 40 hand-picked guests were inside the Primrose Hill Library to see the 82-year-old speaking in the flesh, as his legion of fans watched his answers from their cinema seats all over the UK after the screening of Alan Bennett’s Diaries, a new hour-long film.

Mr Bennett opened the library in Sharpleshall Street in 2012 when volunteers took over the management after Camden Council said it would stop funding the service, then called Chalk Farm Library.

He told the audience last night: “As I pass this library you look in and you can see the kids, often from poorer families sitting here. It’s a quiet place to come and it’s a refuge.”

In the film, he reads diary extracts including one in which he reveals his anger over the council’s threat of closing it down.

He appears on the screen doing a spot of photocopying – and lambasts the idea the public facility could be taken over by a “useful retail outlet”.

At one stage he despairs that there are people who would rather it was home to a branch of Pizza Hut.

The film follows him as he travels home to his Yorkshire village, meets editors at the London Review of Books and cycles around Primrose Hill on his maroon bicycle wearing his distinctive long coat.

It also follows him all the way to New York for an award ceremony.

Mr Bennett speaks about his parents, himself as a young playwright and opens up about his 23-year relationship with Rupert Thomas and their civil partnership ceremony at Camden Town Hall in 2006, which he said “might have been a funeral” it was so simple.

After the screening, he said of his diaries: “Once upon a time I wanted the emotional things taken out, but now I’m not so bothered. Things about Rupert and my feelings. I’ve got less of a stiff upper lip now”.

Extracts from Bennett’s diaries in the film included a number of anecdotes from his London life such as an angry altercation with a woman in Shepherd Foods after the general election.

In one amusing extract, he writes of a “minor breakthrough” after a visit to his barber Ossie’s in Camden Town, where Azak trims his unruly eyebrows for the first time.

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