image: Godalming Coillege

 

Television personality Ben Elton was born on the 3rd May 1959 in Catford, London. He attended Godalming Grammar School, now Godalming College, from 1970-1975. Neil Martin of Godalming College described Ben as “academically good and an extremely live wire who took part in a large number of dramatic productions. Ben had a lively interest in Godalming College’s charity activities”.

He acted with Godalming Theatre Group from 1973 to 1975, starring in Oliver as Artful Dodger in January 1974 and as Pearce in Half a Sixpence later that year.

In 1980 Ben wrote Granada Television’s sketch Alfresco, which introduced Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson and Robbie Coltrane who have all gone on to achieve success. In 1982 The Young Ones was his first major TV success where he was co-writer. In 1985 he was the youngster sole scriptwriter for the BBC with Happy Families, which starred Jennifer Saunders, and co-wrote three series of the very popular TV Blackadder winning four BAFTAS and an EMMY.

Ben became a hugely successful and influential stand-up comedian in Saturday Live, renamed Friday Night Live and later became host, in which he called the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, ‘Thatch’. In 1990 he starred in his own stand-up comedy The Man From Auntie with a second series in 1994, and in 1998 The Ben Elton Show. He recently returned to TV with his 2007 ITV show Get A Grip.

He has embarked on a career in musical theatre, having studied Drama at Manchester University. He co-wrote with Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Beautiful Game (2000), and rock musicals, We Will Rock You (2002) with music by Queen, and Tonight’s the Night (2003) with music by Rod Stewart.

He has written stage plays, Gasping (1990) with Hugh Laurie and the voice of Stephen Fry, Silly Cow (1991), Popcorn (1996), and Blast From the Past (1998).

He began writing novels and plays in 1988 with Stark, and now has 11 books to his credit. Gridlock (1991); This Other Eden (1993); Popcorn (1996); Blast From The Past (1998; Inconceivable (1999); Dead Famous (2001); High Society (2002); Past Mortem (2004). In 2005 he wrote The First Casualty set revisiting the western Front in 1917 with a whodunit based around a murder in the trenches, and Blind Faith was published in 2006.

In 2007 Ben was awarded the Special Golden Rose D’Or at The International Television festival in Lucerne, Switzerland for his lifetime contribution to the Television Arts.

Ben came back to Godalming College (the former Godalming Grammar School) in March 2008 to open the new £2.7 million performing arts centre, which includes six music practice rooms, a recording studio, a music performance hall and a galleried drama studio. In 2015 Ben, who now lives in Australia, was here for the Dan Eley Foundation Spring Benefit Concert to raise money for gifted musical students at the college.

Godalming Museum 2015

 

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