(Here is the speech delivered by Peter Lloyd at Bev Dartnall’s Memorial, held in Kings Heath on 17th June 2014, with additional sections from Claire Bennett, and Bobbie Chapman)
Welcome Snibs, past and present.
There was to be a professional Celebrant doing this today, but she was being rude, difficult and upsetting. Not something our Bev would have appreciated at all. So Bobbie fired her. Which means you’re going to have to put up with me.
Today is a special celebration in a number of ways – it’s taking place some time after Bev’s funeral in Majorca – but it has been planned and crafted by her friends – who shared so much of her life, and who loved her dearly.
We will be hearing tributes, poetry and music, but there will also be a time for Reflection, which will give you an opportunity to remember her in your hearts. And maybe get the tissues out.
But to begin at the beginning –
“SHE WAS ONLY A POOR GIRL FROM NECHELLS”
Beverley Maguerite Child was born in Sorrento Maternity Hospital on the 19th September 1958 – to Molly and George.
Her parents were licensees and most of her childhood was spend in Bordesley Green, close to Birmingham City Football ground. Her dad would take her off to watch them play and she became a lifelong Blues supporter. On Doctors we were never allowed to feature any other local team onscreen; The Baggies, Wolves and especially the Villa were all banned. BBC Fair Policy be damned; frankly, the woman was obsessed. .
Aunty Sheila remembers her as a “delightful, happy and well mannered child, adored by all”. So not much changed
Bev attended Duddeston Manor School, where she studied the clarinet. Music was one of Bev’s passions, but because of financial constraints she declined the opportunity to go to music college. Instead, after A levels, she secured a job in the Contracts Department of the BBC in London.
/It was 1977..
It was 1977 and this was the start of a career that spanned two cities, took her to countless locations and most importantly to her, the beginning of many lifelong friendships. It was here that she met Glynn and Gareth and Michelle. It was a very happy period, Bev shared a flat with Michelle in Lexham Gardens where there were lots of parties, and their sofa was constantly occupied, especially by Bev’s childhood friend Stephen. Bev gave tutorials on the art of drinking wine, which is hard to imagine. Wednesday nights were spent at TVC for the Top of the Pops recordings (and she can be seen dancing to Elvis Costello in one of the shows). Sunny weekends were spent in Holland Park where the gang fancied themselves as “Hippy Chicks” with Bev strumming her guitar.
Sadly this period was to come to an end with the news that her dad had been diagnosed with cancer. Bev asked for a transfer to Pebble Mill and moved back home to help her mum.
She joined the Planning department and on the first day met her great friend Sue Robinson. They hit it off instantly and much of their spare time was spent together at football matches, concerts – Rod Stewart, of course – and they managed to get to every “wrap” party going, regardless of whether they had anything to do with the production!!
I think we can all agree, Beverley was determined to enjoy her life …
She had many god children, and now one of them, Robbie Patterson will read us a poem by Joyce Grenfell
READING: Death Joyce Grenfell
If I should die before the rest of you,
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone
Nor when I’m gone speak in a Sunday voice
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must,
Parting is hell,
But life goes on,
So sing as well.
.Joyce Grenfell (1910-79)
Bev always expressed a desire to work in the Drama department and after a couple of years was offered a job as Production Secretary ….
This was the era when Pebble Mill Drama was at its height – she joined when David Rose ran the department and was around in the heady days when Michael Wearing, Barry Hanson and Chris Parr carried on the tradition of innovation. Indeed, one of the first productions Bev worked on was Boys From The Blackstuff.
In the early 80’s she began to train as a P A but tragedy struck for the second time when her Mum, Molly was diagnosed with breast cancer and so once again Bev found herself acting as carer whilst trying to work and carry on with her own career.
So although during her early 20’s she had looked after both parents, lost both of them and was on her own again – her strength of character and determination carried her through – she was much in demand and made films in Ireland and Egypt where rumour has it an Egyptian bloke offered a hundred camels for her hand in marriage! For a very brief moment, she was tempted …
Instead, she married Howard and became a dedicated step mother to his daughter Alice. Sadly in time the marriage failed and they went their separate ways but Bev kept in close touch with Howard’s sister, Dilys and her partner Gerald, who she was devoted to.
Bev worked in the new Afro Caribbean department on Black Britains and organized a world tour for Jazzie B, then trained as a Production Associate and worked on some diverse and interesting dramas of which she was very proud – Skallagrig, with Richard Briers and Billie Whitelaw, and Cruel Train with David Suchet, But perhaps the show she was most proud of was Martin Chuzzlewit directed by Pedr James with a starry cast including Paul Schofield, Sir John Mills, Tom Wilkinson, Keith Allen and Pete Postlethwaite. And somehow a teapot was involved, I don’t know the details.
She became a first time Producer on Dangerfield and went on to work on a further four series, seeing the lead change from bonkers Nigel le Vaillant to the charming Nigel Havers. On one of these series, Exec’d by a right old cowbag, Bev resigned three times. But each time, she changed her mind and stuck it out. Her reward came in the very last series. She had the serious hots for a tall black guy, who couldn’t remember his lines and looked terrified for the whole shoot. He wasn’t great on screen either. Bev said he had ‘lovely thighs’, but you could argue she had some foresight. That actor was Idris Elba.
As a producer she worked incredibly hard – was firm but fair – and created a happy working environment – with lots of laughter in her production office and on her sets. People always felt involved in her productions – they never felt they worked ‘for her’ – they worked ‘with her’ and this legacy continues today at the Drama Village.
Bev was always a team player … so it’s apt that now we’re going to have a good sing. Even if it’s a bit Scouse, Bev wouldn’t mind just this once, so please stand up and give it some welly!
All to sing “You’ll never walk alone
In 2000 she joined Doctors, as Producer and was very proud when they won best episode at the Soap Awards. Then, after 3 years she became Series Producer – here’s Mike Hobson to give us an insight …
SEQUENCE 7: Mike Hobson to speak about Doctors
So from Contracts clerk to Series Producer – not bad for ‘a poor girl from Nechells’ with a bosom that won’t quit, and the clear blue eyes of a Siberian husky.
Apart from her TV career Bev also did some lecturing, produced some short films and was a dedicated cat owner. She was also asked to do some theatre directing
And here’s writer and friend Claire Bennett to tell us more …..
SEQUENCE 9: Claire Bennett to speak about Bev and Theatre production
Today there is a proper theatre – on top of a pub – across from the cathedral – in the heart of Birmingham. If Beverley hadn’t embraced my invitation to direct the very first play there it wouldn’t exist at all. That it does is a tribute to Punchy Beverley.
I didn’t think she’d be even be remotely interested in directing our play… but Bev was delighted – to the extent that it was like I was doing her a favour not the other way round.
Four women – three writers and Beverley – laughed their way into becoming Dragon’s Tail Productions. No money, thirteen actors and a play written around the fact that we were stuck with a long dining table. Stuck because it was too big to get out of the room we were getting for nothing at The Old Joint Stock. Three of us were green, Beverley was patient. None of us had much experience in fringe theatre but Beverley had transferable skills by the bucket load and, of course, a nose for drama. We proved that there was an audience for small theatre in the middle of our city. Who knew? Without Beverley nobody would have. Without her it would have been a disaster. Without Beverley it wouldn’t have been nearly so much fun nor the springboard that it was for many.
She cast, she rehearsed, she time-tabled, she cracked an invisible whip. She sorted out stage management, lighting and props. She got us an amazing guest list for opening nights. She was never grand (although she had every right to be). She kept her sleeves rolled up.
Once, in those early days Beverley dropped the F bomb with such effect and aplomb that her expression became legend – “This is not a play about… BIG SWEAR… chairs!” When people involved in “Individual Portions”, that first production, bump into each other it’s not long before somebody quotes Bev’s line and we laugh. Now we quote, laugh, smile and talk about all the reasons why we miss her.
The review of “Individual Portions” in The Birmingham Post was glowing. It pointedly applauded the play’s “punchy direction”. When Beverley was your mate she called you “Snib”. After that review we all called her Punchy. I think she rather loved it.
We went on to do many more productions in that room. Eventually the pub company built a proper theatre upstairs. They moved the table. The first piece performed was an echo from the Dragon’s Tail past when Punchy directed David Perks as “The Executioner’s Lad”. One of the reasons why it was so easy to love Punchy Dartnall was because she was open and generous. By the time you realised you were friends it felt like she been your friend forever. She loved Birmingham. There may never be a blue plaque saying “Punchy was here at the start” but it’s good to know that due to her talent and generosity there will always be a little bit of her – in a theatre, on top of a pub, across from the cathedral in the heart of her home city.
Claire intro’s into Reflection seq with photos –
Bev and Majorca and intro to Bobbie –
For many years Bev had dreamt of living by the sea, somewhere warm and sunny with no snow! When the opportunity to take redundancy arose she grabbed it and in December 2007 moved to Puerto Pollensa in Majorca. Unsurprisingly she quickly made friends, started helping out at the various markets, worked in a charity shop and learnt Spanish. It was at a market working with her friend Jean that she met Asaad, who she eventually married. She always said that he made her happier than any man she’d ever met and we couldn’t have wished for anything more for her. In turn, Asaad loved and adored Bev and with the help of Jean he cared for her throughout her illness with utter devotion.
Unfortunately Asaad can’t be here today, but there is someone who was just as special to Beverly and it’s about time we heard from her:
Ladies and Gentlemen, the ultimate Snib, Bobbie Chapman.
Bev the person – Bobbie Chapman
Bev was my dearest friend, my snib. I knew her for over 30 years , and for more than 10 of those years I was her lodger in Birmingham. I worked with her when she was a production secretary, trained her as a PA, and was her production co-ordinator on Dangerfield.
When she went to Majorca I wrote this little rhyme for her, to commemorate our friendship and make her smile and and I know that it did make her smile, so I thought I’d read it to you today to give you an insight into what our friendship meant to me. It’s got lots of personal references in it but I hope you get the gist.
So with apologies to Pam Ayres and any real poet out there – here goes.
READ ODE TO BEV
The BBC was a huge part of Bev’s life providing her with her career, friends and a social life but there was a greater depth to Bev illustrated by the way she lived her life and I think that it’s as a person that we will remember her best.
She was a larger than life personality that could light up a room and she had that rare gift of touching people wherever she went and she always put others before herself.
She was a great listener, empathetic and never judgemental and if you told Bev a secret you could rest assured that she would never tell anyone else.
She never forgot her roots but could mix with any sort of person and gain their respect.
She was a natural home maker and always created a warm and welcoming atmosphere wherever she lived.
She was a wonderful and devoted god mother and loved by all the children who were lucky enough to know her and its testament to her that so many people wanted her to take on this role.
She was curious about people and places and travelled the world, sometimes on her own
She was gutsy and brave and though she had a lot of adversity in her life, not least her illness, she faced everything that was thrown at her with grace and fortitude.
She was loyal, generous, loving and kind, a marvellous friend, with a wonderful sense of fun who could party with the best of them and frequently did.
Her capacity for friendship was legendary; she made friends wherever she went and maintained those friendships no matter how far away. There are so many of you here today, too many to mention by name, to whom Bev meant the world and she valued these friendships more than anything.
But she was also very vulnerable and she expected the same commitment to friendship as she gave and if people fell short of that, she was often very hurt. But this vulnerability was another part of her character that made her so very loveable.
It’s wonderful to know that she was in such a happy relationship in Majorca with Asaad and he is very much in our thoughts today. Her friend, Jean described him as an honourable man and he is certainly that.
When Bev became ill, Sarah, Michelle and I took it in turns to go out and help look after her – to give Asaad and Jean a bit of a break and I was lucky to be with her at the end of her life. I shared her hospital room until two days before she died so we had time to say our goodbyes for which I’ll always be grateful.
I know that I’m the voice for all her friends here today when I say: I miss her and I’ll never forget her,
to me she is irreplaceable and when I remember her I will always think of the fun and laughter that we shared and be grateful for the way in which she enriched all our lives.
So rest in peace my lovely Bevvers safe in the knowledge that you were so dearly loved by so many of us.
I’d like the memory of me to be a happy one.
I’d like to leave an afterglow of smiles when life is done.
I’d like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways.
Of happy times and laughing times and bright and sunny days. I’d like the tears of those who grieve,
to dry before the sun.
Of happy memories that I leave when life is done.
That was Ellie Costigan, Bev’s god daughter
And that’s it. We can’t cover a whole life, certainly not Bev’s but I hope we’ve jogged some happy memories. There hasn’t been time to talk about what happened when she got Sean Bean in the back of her car, or her strange predilection for fondant fancies, or the saga of the condom in the teapot. But as she’d say, “Can we just get on with it now and have a bladdy drink?”
Thank you all for coming, thanks to Neil and Ian who organized the audio visuals, but most of all to Bev’s dear friends Sarah, Michelle and Bobbie who have worked their backsides off to make this day happen.
There is a basket up at the bar to make donations to:
ACORN CHILDRENS HOSPICE
CANCER RESEARCH UK
But most of all, please take this time to share your own memories of Bev over bevvies.
We’ll have Rod sing us out ….
SEQUENCE 15: Final Music: Maggie May by Rod Stewart