Thursday, 8 November 2018

The Kensington Playlist – Michael Flanders


DC Editor Adam writes…

Today I'm updating my Kensington Playlist – I'm out and about leading the Old Kensington tour with London Walks at 2pm this afternoon (meet at High Street Kensington Tube).

Catch up with earlier Kensington Playlist posts on Sir Arthur Bliss and Queen.


Step forward songwriter and actor Michael Flanders 1922-1975.

In his day, Flanders was regarded by many as the finest English lyricist and librettist since W.S Gilbert. His partnership with Donald Swann created some of the most beloved English comic songs of the 20th Century – The Gnu and The Hippopotamus (commonly known after its refrain of mud, mud glorious mud) among them.


Flanders was educated at Westminster School – at the same time as Peter Ustinov and Peter Brook – and Christ Church, Oxford. He left the latter to join the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve but contracted polio in 1943 and, as a result, used a wheelchair for the rest of his life. One of his less-celebrated achievements was his campaigning to make theatres more accessible.


His debut with Swann under the billing Flanders and Swann, with their revue, At The Drop Of A Hat, took place in 1959 at the now demolished New Lindsey Theatre Club, Kensington Palace Gardens Terrace. It transferred to the Fortune Theatre in the West End for 759 performances before transferring to Broadway.


For my Kensington Playlist I've chosen A Transport of Delight from the Fortune Theatre recording of At The Drop Of A Hat - mainly because of its very London-y subject matter (a London bus) but also because of a reference in the intro by Flanders to Tony Armstrong-Jones, the soon-to-be husband of Princess Margaret. Keeping up my Kensington theme, the couple would reside at Kensington Palace.



Flanders lived at 1a Scarsdale Villas, Kensington from 1953 to 1962 - briefly sharing the house with Swann. A Blue Plaque marks the spot…






And here's my Kensington Playlist so far…








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