2019 Betjeman lecture
For the Society’s 2019 Betjeman lecture John Betjeman himself featured as the subject — probably for the first time. On 18 September in the Andrew Lloyd Webber Theatre at the ArtsEd Schools, distinguished architectural commentator Alan Powers talked on the subject of John Betjeman and the Garden Suburb Movement.
Alan proposed that Betjeman’s poem Narcissus suggests that he may have imagined Bedford Park as almost an alternative place of his childhood — he was in fact raised in the more conventional Hampstead. This may have provoked his deep interest in the work of architects such as Voysey, Baillie Scott and Norman Shaw who had broken with the tradition of the small Victorian house, with its ornament, stucco and symmetry, in favour of a new vernacular; Betjeman found a particular appeal in the deployment of red brick.
By the 1930s, spreading suburbs — cruelly parodied by Betjeman himself — could be seen as embarrassing “grandchildren” of Bedford Park, but Betjeman retained his clear affection for the original, which led to his passionate engagement with its defence in the 1960s.
You can read our blog that supplements the lecture on the Chiswick Calendar website. This gives additional information on how much today’s residents owe Betjeman for bringing his public fame to the “battle” to save Bedford Park and for keeping it in the public eye.