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Ten London people who deserve a blue plaque

Posted at 8:00 am, October 7, 2014 in Fun London

Elizabeth Taylor - Top 10 London Actors

1. Elizabeth Taylor
The sultry goddess of the silver screen won almost every movie award under the sun, but she never got a plaque. That could be about change, though. In 2011, she told TV presenter Matthew Wright that she’d always dreamed of having a blue plaque put up at the north London home where she was born. And Wright has now launched a petition asking English Heritage – which oversees the plaque scheme – to break its rule of waiting until 20 years after a figure has died and make it happen. We’re firmly behind the campaign, if only for an excuse to use the headline ‘Cleoplaquetra’.

2. Judy Garland
As American as apple pie and the obesity that comes from eating too much of it, this Hollywood starlet spent many years in London and died in 1969 at the Chelsea house she shared with fifth husband. Speaking about her love for the city, she said: ‘I don’t know if London still needs me, but I certainly need it! It’s good and kind to me. I feel at home here.’ We agree, Judy: there really is no place like home.

3. Dudley Moore
This pint-sized comedian and composer from Dagenham is almost as iconic as his long-serving comedy partner Peter Cook. But while Cook is remembered with a Soho plaque, at the site of the influential Establishment Club that he founded in 1961, Moore’s impressively varied career is yet to receive ceramic certification. In the early ’60s, his jazz trio regularly performed at the Establishment, so we placing his plaque beside Cook’s. Just a foot lower down.

4. William Shakespeare

A plaque on both your houses! Nope, afraid not. Largely because we don’t know exactly where the Bard lived – and because the buildings are long gone anyway – English Heritage has yet to find a suitable site on which to commemorate him. Not that it matters greatly: he’s got a whole theatre devoted to his works and we’re unlikely to forget the greatest writer in the history of the English language. To be remembered or not to be remembered really isn’t in question.

5. Malcolm McLaren
First in the punk line for porcelain recognition should be the man who did most to create the movement – and without playing a single note. To all intents and purposes, Malcolm McLaren manufactured the Sex Pistols as well as managing them and staging much of the controversy that built their reputation. Alongside that, he and then girlfriend Vivienne Westwood used their King’s Road boutique to promote the extraordinary fashion that would define the punk era. The shop is still part of Westwood’s fashion empire and is probably where a McLaren plaque should go.

rik mayall plaque

6. Rik Mayall
Within 24 hours of Rik Mayall’s death in June this year, a resourceful fan had attached a homemade blue plaque to a Hammersmith bench close to the one featured in the opening credits of ‘Bottom’. With fitting crassness, it said the comedy hero ‘punched his friend in the balls on a bench near this spot’. Though it’s unlikely any official plaque would display the same comic swagger, there can be no denying that Mayall deserves some kind of commemoration. Preferably a rude one.

7. John Peel
When John Peel died suddenly in 2004, the Evening Standard’s afternoon boards read: ‘The day the music died’. He was that important. Through his early years on pirate station Radio London and his trailblazing BBC career, Peel became one of the most influential voices in modern music and played pivotal role in unearthing new acts often went on to achieve their seminal status. He actually deserves far more than just a plaque, but one step at a time.

Mary Poppins

8. PL Travers
Literary heroines don’t get more practically perfect than Mary Poppins. And yet, the Chelsea home of the author who created the magical nanny remains conspicuously unplaqued. Travers famously viewed Disney’s adaptation of Mary Poppins as a bitter betrayal of the character. So if she’s looking down on us now, maybe a plaque will be the spoonful of sugar that helps Disney’s medicine go down.

9. Tony Benn
The Labour firebrand getting a blue plaque seems about as inevitable as David Beckham getting a knighthood: it’s just a matter of time. The pipe-smoking politico was a particularly principled MP for 47 years and a totemic left-winger who never wavered from his increasingly marginal – though always impeccably articulated – views. On second thoughts, it should really be a red plaque.

Amy Winehouse © Oscar Lasa
© Oscar Lasa

10. Amy Winehouse
In an age when insipid chart stooges are handed musical careers by committee, Amy Winehouse was the rarest of beasts: a singular and genuine musical talent. The fact that she descended into  rock ‘n’ roll’s most horrible, self destructive cliché doesn’t eclipse the fact that she exhibited more talent in her short career than most achieve in far longer lifetimes.

Well, she may not have a blue plaque, but there is a bronze memorial statue of Amy Winehouse being unveiled in Camden Town.

By Dan Frost. Additional reporting Adam Sonin.

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