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From the Cumbria News & Star Online, November 7, 2001
A FINE, ROMANTIC WAY TO THANK THEATRE’S BEST PALS
A commission for sculptor Meryll Evans to produce a bust of Britain’s most famous theatrical couple was both a triumph and a sadness.
A bronze bust of Dame Judi Dench and her late husband Michael Williams was yesterday unveiled at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake. Tragically, Michael Williams died earlier this year before he was able to see the finished article which now stands in a position of honour in the theatre’s main public area.
Dame Judi and her husband have long been supporters of the Keswick theatre project which finally came to fruition in 1999. They were approached by Keswick sculptor Meryll with the idea for the bust when they came to perform the official opening of the 6 million pound theatre nearly two years ago. The sculpture, which took 18 months, is a fitting tribute to the roles Dame Judi an Michael have played in the theatre.
"It was a great honour to be entrusted with the ‘biographies in bronze’ of two such distinguished people," said Mrs. Evans. For me it is the realisation of an idea which began in 1977."
That was the year that Dame Judi and Michael, stars of TV’s A Fine Romance, first appeared on stage at the old Blue Box, the forerunner of the current building. They came to perform at the request of Michael’s lifelong friend Phil Kemp, a local theatre enthusiast, and the production raised enough money to repair the theatre roof. This was the first of many fundraising visits by the couple to Keswick. "I strongly felt that if the new theatre became a reality, there should be tangible recognition of Judi and Michael’s considerable contribution," said Meryll.
"At the official opening of the theatre I approached them with the idea, and they said they would like it very much indeed."
Unfortunately several sittings had to be cancelled because of the onset of Michael’s illness and the bust was completed using photographs, videos and with the help of Mr. Kemp and his wife Rosemary. Meryll sent Dame Judi and Michael photos of the work which has captured the personalities, notably Michael’s smile, perfectly.
Meryll trained at Cheltenham and was appointed head of an art school in Reading. Later, in Kenya, she studied sculpture in the Nairobi studio of German sculpture Karl Michels and received commissions for portrait paintings and sculpture as well as set designs for the Kenya National Theatre.
Examples of her work are also on view at Muncaster Castle and Hutton-in-the-Forest, and in 1991 she was commission a bronze statuette to be presented to the Queen Mother and, the following year, to the Duchess of Kent. Meryll created the Keswick School centenary sculpture in 1997 and has work in exhibitions in the north of England, Guildford Museum and Elsamere Museum in Kenya, as well as in private collections in the UK, Kenya, Canada, the USA and Japan.
February 28, 2010