October 4, 2008

Joanna Lumley, Actress and Campaigner

By Gillian Orr

My Week A triumphant end to her long battle to allow Gurkhas to settle in Britain


This summer I've been working on an Ian Fleming documentary for the BBC so I go to a studio to put the commentary over it. Having been a Bond girl, watching all the footage in a dark room really transports me back. In the evening I sit at home, my heart beginning to pound at the thought of the next day, when the High Court will deliver their verdict on whether the Gurkhas have the right to settle in Britain. My father fought alongside the Gurkhas in the Second World War and the fact that they are not allowed to call Britain home, despite having served our country, is shocking.


After a pretty sleepless night I wake with a real sense of anticipation, dread and excitement. Before going to the High Court I attend the funeral of the actor William Fox, who has just died at the age of 97. The ceremony is absolutely ravishing and thinking about someone who has lived for almost a hundred years really puts the world in perspective. After the funeral I have a quick meeting about another documentary and then get in a taxi, desperate to get to the High Court for the hearing. A huge crowd of supporters has gathered and the tension is palpable. When it is announced that the Gurkhas have won the right to settle in Britain it is thrilling. We can hardly speak for smiling and we can hardly see for trying not to cry. We all hold on to each other. I end the day sharing a bottle of champagne with my husband, watching the news on television. A big smile on my face.


I wake to see all the wonderful coverage in the papers and in endless letters of support. I'm thrilled to bits. I get the Tube and on it everyone passes on their support and says things like "Great news about the Gurkhas!". It's fabulous.


I spend all day doing phone interviews and sending emails. I also work on our website through which I am trying to get one million signatures of support to take to Downing Street. Despite this huge achievement in British justice, the law still hasn't changed and this is our focus now. The idea that these people come to this country to sponge is atrocious. We've lost sight of our duty as human beings, instead putting our arms around our pile of gold and viewing strangers as a threat. The world is changing and if we slam the door shut on those who need our help, then we have lost sight of change and the only certain thing in this world is change.


I go and collect my outfit to wear for the James Bond gala that I am hosting with Stephen Fry on Sunday and collect some pictures that I've had framed. I used to buy shoes; now I buy pictures. In the evening I catch the train to Canterbury Cathedral for a piano and flute recital. The music is stupendous and the cathedral is unbearably beautiful. I sit in the dark reflecting and I thank the higher powers for the result this week.


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