Helen Bamber Foundation, the Conversation: Creative Survival @HelenBamber @stephenfry

Helen Bamber Foundation, the Conversation: Creative Survival


Opening Speech
I can now say that I have had a rare opportunity to see Emma Thompson in her true form. Shed of her acting skin, she is warm, candid, beautiful and extremely funny.
She spoke with passion, authority and grace, ensuring we all knew why we were there; to listen to the stories of people who had survived, creatively. Something Emma explains is the opposite of the Darwinian concept, but instead the survival of the kindest and most humane.

Emma Thompson in conversation with Lyse Doucet, TJ Birdi and Ceilia
Emma went on to host a wonderful and heart warming conversation about the work of HBF and how it has improved the life of Ceilia; a refugee seeking nothing more than somewhere she felt safe.
It broke my heart that she was explaining her plight to the wrong people; I know that people fleeing war torn countries are not here to ‘steal’ jobs or abuse the benefit system. Those who do need to hear this, would not have attended such an event and would not believe that people’s motives are altruistic. They would not believe her when she explains that she didn’t even know about the benefits on offer for over a decade living in England.
I wish I could have hugged her and make all the pain she suffered go away, tell her that she was loved. It’s something I have in bucket loads and she informed us she had to be taught to love.
The conversation ended with her informing us that she has a child and, through the support of HBF, is able to live a fulfilled and healthy life.

Stephen Fry with Humera
This conversation opened with Stephen narrating the beginnings of Humera’s story. Abused by men she trusted, robbed of her virginity and left to feel like she didn’t belong. Her community and faith meant that her marriage would lead to her death, knowing that her husband would deem her an adulterer.
Her only chance of freedom was to flee her country and attend university in the UK. Again, it was noted about the often mentioned ‘foreigners coming to steal the jobs.’ It angers me that someone who is having to escape an abusive home is then expected to defend themselves against the prejudice and stereotypes small minded people put out into the world.
There were issues along the way; visa denial and sexual harassment in the workplace before finding HBF. They helped her apply for asylum as well as give her one to one support with a counsellor.
When Humera joins Stephen on the stage, she catches us up on the successes within her life; managerial position, love away from abuse and the freedom, confidence and support to proudly declare ‘I am gay.’

The evening drew to a close with three musical pieces and the HBF choir were joined on stage by musician; Nerina Pallot.
Through the music, clients of HBF humbled us with their expressions of culture, identity and belonging. They got the crowd onto their feet for the final number; despite the harrowing stories, it ended on a blissful note.


Of course, this was all for a cause. The HBF relies on generosity and funding to continue to help make changes in people’s lives. Only, I don’t think this foundation just needs money, it needs love and support; things people can give for free.

helen bamber 2

How can you help?

  • Head over to the website http://www.helenbamber.org/
  • Follow @HelenBamber and keep up to date with their events and requests
  • Help a stranger (you never know what it might mean)… Many of the clients who spoke talked about how a simple smile was able to make them feel like they belong.
  • Consider a one off, or monthly, donation
  • In the new year, I will be completing a sponsored reading/ viewing marathon and all proceeds will go to the Helen Bamber Foundation. Details will come in due course, but please promote if you can and get sponsoring when the page is up and running.

Keiran Hodgson- French Exchange


As I am writing this, I am torn. On the one hand I want everyone to know this amazingly talented yet profoundly modest man’s name. The fact that Keiran Hodgson in one performance was able to knock Eddie Izzard off the top spot of my favourite comedians (something Eddie has held unchallenged for 15 year) says it all.
On the other hand, I don’t want to share. I’m selfish and I want to guarantee I can get tickets to this man’s work whenever I need cheering up. However, I think that’s out of my hands.

The show itself is an hour of multiple characters interwoven seamlessly ( my third viewing was spent watching his distinct movements and stance from one character to another) to narrate Keiran’s travels to France with his school in 2003.
From the opening explanation of Mrs Cook ‘I want to be memorable’ he has everyone hooked. You all know the teacher; a little bit odd, a little bit too much, but totally wanting the best for her kids.
Fifteen year old Keiran spends the time writing French poetry that impresses no one (except the audience of course. Particularly this one, who now regrets French being something I gave up on that first ever lesson back in 1997), avoiding the advances of MISS Robison and teaching the French how to speak Yorkshire.
As it draws to a close and Keiran says goodbye to his host family, we discover some implications to his actions throughout the holiday. It leads to the most heartwarming and brutally honest conversation any of us would like to have with our younger self.

While there are too many highlights to mention ‘grow your sideburns it makes you look like- never mind’, ‘what’s a Burtis?’ and ‘welcome to Besancon..’ Being among them, It is the entrance of the ‘girl’ who join them on the trip that will have everyone in stitches and begging for an encore.
An honourable mention has to be give to the character of Curtis. Everyone knows someone like Curtis, every teacher has a Curtis, yet Kerian’s depiction is funny, fresh and far from cliche that other comedians would present.

I am unaware of any repeat performances of this particular show. To date I have seen three separate performances since it’s return from Fringe and I have laughed as long as hard I did the first time. While you potentially unlucky people may not have chance to see French Exchange, I am writing this review in the hopes that you will all follow him like he’s one of the Beatles.