'Beryl's Last Year'

Dame Beryl Bainbridge thinks she's going to die at the age of 71, because everyone in her family died when they were that age. This warm, intimate and uniquely personal film, made by Beryl's eldest grandson Charlie Russell, follows Beryl as she lives out her 'last year', prepares for her death and tries to write her final novel.

Recorded in 2003, the film was first broadcast in 2007. It was shown again in 2010 soon after her death.

The complete film is 60 minutes in length, watch a two minute excerpt below. Further excerpts were shown in the exhibition.

Film clip shown with the kind permission of Charlie Russell.


Beryl Bainbridge: Oh I used to come here when I was a youth at the Liverpool Playhouse; we rehearsed in the main room. I never stayed here then.

To go into the Adelphi you wore a hat and gloves if you were a woman. 

Charlie Russell: Beryl tells me that she got her first job as a stage hand in the Liverpool Playhouse in the late 1940s before eventually being given the opportunity to act.

Beryl: Oh God, well it’s fantastic. That was the prompt corner over there, that’s where I used to... hello.

Well its just so funny being back. But I think how lucky, I was really lucky you know, a theatre as famous as the Playhouse was then and to be given parts and to mix with all those actors. I mean that’s quite something and I was going to be in – I forget what the play was called anyway – but then I got an ectopic... well so called ectopic pregnancy so that was it. Well in actual fact it wasn’t, I was told it was an ectopic pregnancy but it wasn’t, it was Jo, it was your mother.

Voiceover of Beryl reading from ‘An Awfully Big Adventure’, 1989: Mrs Ackerley dubious about her accent had thought a Lancashire drama more suitable, preferably a comedy. The girl was something of a clown.

Stella would have none of it. She was a mimic she said and sure enough she took off Mrs Ackerley’s own smoky tone of voice to perfection.

Admittedly she was a little young for the part but as she shrewdly observed, this would only stress her versatility.