West End Extra
Publications by New Journal Enterprises
  Home Archive Competition Jobs Tickets Accommodation Dating Contact us
West End Extra - The XTRA DIARY
Published: 19 December 2008
William Hall's widow Jean with the couple's children Juliette and Will on the day of the writer's funeral
William Hall’s widow Jean with the couple’s children Juliette and Will on the day of the writer’s funeral
Explosive send-off for a stellar film critic

ON what would have been his 73rd birthday in November, our late film critic William Hall had his final wish granted.
William, who died in May this year, loved fireworks and had founded the Fleet Street Gunpowder Club. He left instructions in his will that he desired “half my ashes placed in a rocket and fired from Blackfriars Bridge London in the direction of Fleet Street”.
On his birthday, a group of mischievous friends converged on Blackfriars Bridge as night set in. While one carried an ice box of clinking Champagne bottles, a relative brought up the rear with two carefully prepared jumbo rockets concealed under his cloak.
They had earlier strapped a rocket launcher to the side of the bridge, and spent the afternoon working out the best way to get William’s ashes into the rocket.
“I was a little bit nervous,” one said. “I had shopped around for the largest rocket I could find, but wasn’t sure how much of William I could fit in and still ensure that he would make it over the buildings and on to Fleet Street.”
Instead, they made two rockets… just in case.  
“In the first one, I sliced open the top and pushed in some ashes, then sealed it up with tape. The second one was more ambitious, and I bagged up quite a bit of Hall and taped him around it. An old friend had sent over a goodbye message so I taped that on as well. But I really wasn’t sure if it would be too heavy to go anywhere.”
After raising a glass to the much-missed journalist, author and Highgate face, they toasted his birthday and got ready for launch.
“It was a beautiful night, and there was hardly any wind, but it was still hard to light the darn thing.
“After three attempts, the touchpaper caught. Suddenly, whoosh, and the firework ripped away from the bridge and soared into the sky. It looked as though Hall was aiming straight for the big building in between Embankment and Fleet Street, but then it soared higher and deployed right on target. There was this most beautiful array of colours.
“It was a perfect shot,” says one of the gang. “Hall would have loved it.”
The second proved too heavy for the launch tube. “Each time either of us turned it to face Fleet Street, it rolled the other way, facing the South Bank, and we knew Hall wouldn’t have wanted that,” said my source.
Instead the rocket was lit while one of the mourners held it, and proved to be another perfect shot. William’s ashes were scattered from on-high.
And our man at the movies went just the way he wanted.

Fiscal stimulus on the cards

SO David Cameron catches the Tube and shops at Woolies.
A true man of the people, even if it was the Jubilee line and the Notting Hill branch.
But while he does his bit for the doomed high street favourite, it seems the it may not run in the family. Upmarket Bond Street stationers, Smythsons, where his wife is the creative director, is selling Christmas cards for £57. You do get 10 cards and they are personalised but at £5.70 a card, they must be among the most expensive money can buy.
It also seems the government’s trumpeted VAT cut has not been passed on to the well-heeled card-buying public, with shoppers telling us they were selling at the same price in September. Diary wonders if the Tory leader has anything to do with this?

Duchess and dragon team up

THE Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, made a rare appearance in Soho this week.
The one-time royal was handed a bumper cheque by star of the hit television show Dragon’s Den, Theo Paphitis on Tuesday (above).

More than £13,000 was raised for her Children in Crisis charity through the sale of special yellow pencils in Ryman stationery stores owned by the feisty entrepreneur.
Speaking in the Dean Street branch, Sarah, Duchess of York, the charity’s founder and life president, said: “I am so grateful to Ryman and their customers for helping us raise awareness and valuable funds to support us in our mission to provide education for some of the world’s most vulnerable children. Together we can and will make a difference.”
Mr Paphitis said: “We have been overwhelmed with the success of the campaign and the support of all our customers and employees.”
Children in Crisis helps fund primary school education in for children in the poorest countries in the world.

Comment on this article.
(You must supply your full name and email address for your comment to be published)







Theatre Music
Arts & Events Attractions