Sunday, 20 April 2014

Rest in Peace, Richard Broke, devout Christian, eminent TV drama producer and fellow book club member

Our vicar took a minute during Easter mass this morning to pay homage to Richard Broke, a member of our congregation who died last week. There was a good obituary of him in the Telegraph, here. Broke produced two controversial BAFTA-winning dramas which were powerful, but whose left-wing political slant I disapproved of - The Monocled Mutineer and Tumbledown - and at least three which I loved: a hilarious adaptation of Cold Comfort Farm; A Question of Attribution (the one with James Fox as Anthony Blunt and Prunella Scales as the Queen); and Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years, an eight-part series starring Robert Hardy.

Richard Broke, who was 70, had been confined to a wheelchair since a car accident in his twenties. Although he, his wife and two daughters lived in Notting Hill Gate, he invariably attended the Sunday morning service at St Michael’s, where he invariably looked forbiddingly serious. I never had occasion to speak to him until he started attending meetings of our book group seven or eight months ago (his wife was already a member). He was a great addition to the group: opinionated, civilised, articulate, evidently extremely bright, and, although obviously left-wing, free of cant, humbug or the standard clichés. I liked him enormously, especially after he suggested we read Roger Lewis’s splendid Seasonal Suicide Notes, which had me roaring (and which I wrote about here). He was hoping to produce a stage play based on Lewis’s autobiographical writings, along the lines of Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, which I would love to have seen.

From his contributions, I had assumed that Richard was some kind of journalist. After the meeting at which we discussed the Roger Lewis book, I Googled him and read about his astonishing television drama career, to which he had never alluded.

At our next meeting in February, we were told that Richard had been diagnosed with cancer and was being treated in hospital. Last week, a fellow member of the book club let me know that he had died. Today, our vicar said that Richard had told him that, contrary to the belief that one’s faith tended to wane as death approached, his had strengthened – he said he was really looking forward to meeting Jesus. He also recounted a dream in which he’d been waiting in the hospital for God to fetch him, but He had failed to turn up. This had made him fretful, until he realised it was Holy Week, and that He was probably a bit busy with other things.

He’ll be missed.

A memorial service will be held at St Michael & All Angels, Bedford Park at 2.30pm on Thursday, 1st May.

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