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2 September 2014
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Alan Bennett by Derry Moore
© Derry Moore
Loaned by the National Portrait Gallery

Biography: Alan Bennett

Since the legendary Beyond the Fringe in 1960, Bennett’s writing for page, stage and screen has captured hearts globally. Born in Leeds in 1934, this butcher’s son had early aspirations to be a medieval historian.

The gossiping Yorkshire folk and coastal holidays of his childhood pervade much of Bennett’s prolific output, from his first television play A Day Out and the star-studded Talking Heads series to his autobiography Untold Stories.

Most Renowned For

Bennett’s most recent and stunningly popular show The History Boys, scooped three Olivier Awards and six Tonys in the US.

Cultural Impact

For many, Yorkshire’s beloved son Alan Bennett is the premier English dramatist of his generation.

With his floppy hair, horn-rimmed glasses and lashings of corduroy, he looks every inch the iconic English eccentric. But it’s his ability to paint the lives of everyday British folk with charm, humour and respect that has won him awards and a place on the school syllabus.

All this and he’s a great political campaigner: work such as Thora Hird’s memorable monologue about her resistance to going into a care home, have instigated political debate by capturing the plight of the overlooked.

In His Own Words

"People ... have a notion of me being this cosy, northern creature, cup-of-tea and all that stuff. That’s all right; it doesn’t bother me most of the time."

Pub Quiz Trivia

He’s a fan of comedy acts The League of Gentlemen, Little Britain and Reeves and Mortimer "because they are so silly".
John Sergeant
Alan Bennett's genius is in being not what he seems; the dry academic who writes jokes about knickers, the satirist of British life who loves British ways, the gentle lovable soul who can be savage. I'd compare him to Shakespeare in the way he transforms ordinary life into art.

John Sergeant


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