It was a privilege to help Charles record festive poem, says Joanna Lumley

Joanna Lumley has said it was a “privilege” to join the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall at Clarence House to record a festive poem in aid of charity.

The Absolutely Fabulous star, 74, said Charles had been “desperate” about the plight of actors and those working in the performing arts industry who had been affected by Covid-19.

Charles and Camilla were joined by a host of famous faces to narrate ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, raising awareness of the Actors’ Benevolent Fund (ABF), which has received more requests for help this year than ever before.

James Bond stars Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench were joined by Tom Hardy, Dame Maggie Smith, Ncuti Gatwa and the ABF’s president Dame Penelope Keith for the recording.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Lumley said: “It was such a privilege and it was so kind and sweet of his royal highness, the Prince of Wales, to have thought particularly of actors.

“He has always supported actors and the performing arts and music and culture. He has always been a great patron.

“And for him, off his own back, to suddenly think of how he could best help the acting profession and all the backstage and everything that goes on, which has just hit a brick wall and been practically vanquished in this terrible year.”

Ensemble cast reads ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
Ensemble cast reads ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Lumley described Charles as “quite exceptional” because “he is hugely involved with the arts both professionally and personally”.

She added: “He was desperate about the plight of the people, the performers and also backstage – the people who have been hardest hit, because they are not furloughed, they have no prop up.”

Charles is the ABF’s patron and came up with the idea of gathering a group of actors for the reading after being approached by the charity to help following Covid-19’s major impact on the acting profession.

The prince and his wife recorded the poem at their London home Clarence House, and were joined by some of the actors including Lumley, Hardy and Gatwa, who read their lines under Covid-19 regulations.

Ensemble cast reads ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
Ensemble cast reads ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Recalling the sessions, Lumley said Craig had joined them from a “secret Bond hideout”.

She said: “Dame Judi did hers from home, Daniel Craig did his from some secret Bond hideout but the rest of us went to Clarence House.

“Dame Maggie was in the morning room, Ncuti and Penelope Keith were in the garden room and Tom Hardy and I and Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were all around gathered in various bits around the staircase with the Christmas tree.”

Lumley said Charles and Camilla had made the assembled actors “so welcome” and that the atmosphere had been “just like a darling home”.

Something special is coming this Christmas Eve…🎥 🎄🌟

Stay tuned for a festive treat, in support of the Actors’ Benevolent Fund.

— The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall (@ClarenceHouse) December 23, 2020

The actress’s appearance over video call on Good Morning Britain left some viewers distracted by a life-like statue covered in fairy lights visible in her living room background.

“I thought it was a real person,” said presenter Alex Beresford of the bust.

The ABF supports actors, actresses and stage managers who are unable to work due to illness, injury or old age and those experiencing financial hardship.

Before the pandemic, the ABF mainly supported those of retirement age but during 2020 they have been largely helping those aged 18-47.