Tele­vi­sion star Sally Phillips in per­son at the Hostry Fes­ti­val

Ac­tress Sally Phillips is one of the stars of this year’s Hostry Fes­ti­val in Nor­wich, with a thought-pro­vok­ing per­sonal story to share.

Let's Talk - - Contents - Angi Kennedy re­ports.

You will recog­nise Sally Phillips as Tilly “Bear with

. . .” in TV’s ‘Mi­randa’; from the Brid­get Jones’ films as Brid­get’s best friend Shazzer, and from al­most 25 years’ of TV ap­pear­ances in come­dies like ‘Par­ents’, ‘Smack The Pony’ and ‘I’m Alan Par­tridge’, hit se­ries such as ‘Death in Par­adise’ and ‘Mid­somer Mur­ders’, and panel shows like ‘Taskmas­ter’. She also stars, along­side Sheri­dan Smith and Mark Addy, in the new film from Jo Brand, ‘The More You Ig­nore Me’.

You’ll know her voice too - es­pe­cially if you lis­ten to BBC Ra­dio Four - as the ti­tle char­ac­ter of the long-run­ning se­ries ‘Clare in the Com­mu­nity’, and as a cu­ra­tor of ‘The Mu­seum of Cu­rios­ity’.

But also you should re­ally re­mem­ber Sally Phillips for an ex­traor­di­nar­ily pow­er­ful piece of TV, broad­cast by the BBC in 2016, in which she ex­plored the eth­i­cal is­sues around preg­nancy screen­ing for Down’s Syn­drome. Sally pre­sented the pro­gramme, called ‘A World With­out Down’s Syn­drome?’, with in­sight, pas­sion and in­tel­li­gence - it was, af­ter all, a sub­ject clos­est to her heart. She has three sons, one of whom - Olly, now a young teenager - has Down’s Syn­drome.

Sally was told of Olly’s di­ag­no­sis when he was just a few days old; it was bro­ken to her as sad, bad news, but as Sally says in the doc­u­men­tary: “I ex­pected tragedy and got com­edy”. Olly has brought joy, love and de­light to his fam­ily, and in the pro­gramme Sally high­lights some of the many pos­i­tive as­pects of hav­ing a child with Down’s Syn­drome and how these are not of­ten brought to the at­ten­tion of women hav­ing the test through the na­tional screen­ing pol­icy. In this coun­try nine out of 10 women choose abor­tion if their baby is di­ag­nosed with Down’s Syn­drome (in Ice­land it is 100%) and Sally ques­tions the eth­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions of ‘screen­ing out’ par­tic­u­lar types of peo­ple in this way.

Her doc­u­men­tary had a great im­pact on Stash Kirk­bride, artis­tic di­rec­tor of The Hostry Fes­ti­val in Nor­wich, who in­vited Sally to take the stage for an ‘In Con­ver­sa­tion With . . .’ talk as one of the high­lights of this year’s fes­ti­val.

“I was to­tally moved by the pro­gramme,” says Stash. “I have been a fan of her for so many years, and loved her in the Brid­get Jones films. She is an ex­tra­or­di­nary ac­tor but is more than that - a writer, co­me­dian and ob­vi­ously a deep thinker.”

Sally’s ap­pear­ance at the Hostry Fes­ti­val is es­pe­cially timely be­cause at the core of this year’s line-up of talks, plays and mu­sic is the world pre­miere of Boy In

The Lighthouse by To­tal En­sem­ble The­atre Com­pany. The Nor­wich­based in­clu­sive the­atre com­pany, founded by Re­becca Chap­man, works with a di­verse group of per­form­ers who vary in age, abil­ity and ex­pe­ri­ence.

“When I found out we were go­ing to com­mis­sion To­tal En­sem­ble for the first time for the cen­tral pro­duc­tion with a bril­liant new piece of ‘move­ment the­atre’, I thought we sim­ply must try to get Sally along to talk about her ca­reer and also her own life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing the mother of Olly,” says Stash.

“The cre­ativ­ity and in­clu­siv­ity of the fes­ti­val is build­ing all the time, and along­side that we have peo­ple with such a depth of per­son­al­ity, like Sally; the ac­tress Hay­ley Mills who was with us last year, and Melvyn Bragg the year be­fore that who adapted his play es­pe­cially for us.”

“With Sally we will be talk­ing about her act­ing, so those who want to come to hear about her ca­reer in tele­vi­sion, film and ra­dio will not be short-changed, but I will also be ask­ing her to talk about the doc­u­men­tary and the ques­tion at the ker­nel of that which is what kind of world to we want to live in and who do we want to live in it with.”

Sally Phillips is at The HostryFes­ti­val in Nor­wich on Oc­to­ber 27.

Peter Bar­row (cen­tre) co-founder of the Hostry Fes­ti­val, in re­hearsals with mem­bers of the cast of Boy In The Lighthouse.

Stash Kirk­bride, artis­tic di­rec­tor of The Hostry Fes­ti­val.

Re­hearsals for Boy In The Lighthouse from To­tal En­sem­ble The­atre Com­pany.

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