Some of Britain's brightest acting talent, including Star Wars Forces of Destiny actress Felicity Jones, Hustle TV star Adrian Lester, comedian Ben Miller and the legendary Brian Blessed OBE, turned out to add some thespian magic to the annual Children & the Arts carol concert this week. For Felicity, 34, who attended with her fiancé Charles Guard, it was her first time taking part in the concert as an ambassador for the charity founded by Prince Charles 11 years ago. She entertained the congregation at Holy Trinity Church in London's Sloane Square with a lively reading of Joyce Grenfell's Nursery School Nativity Play, while fellow ambassador Adrian read A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas.
As befitting a charity which helps to give deprived children access to the arts, there was no shortage of musical performances, with pupils from the gospel choir at St Paul's & All Hallows' Church of England School in Tottenham – one of the schools that benefits from the charity's START arts programme – accompanying both West End star Shaun Escoffery (Mufasa in the Lion King) and soprano Carly Paoli. The concert, which will be broadcast on Christmas Eve on Classic FM and was hosted by John Suchet, also featured a performance by violinist and ambassador, Jennifer Pike, together with composer Nigel Hess.
Charles Guard and Felicity Jones at the concert © John M Fulton
Adrian, who stars in the forthcoming ITV drama Trauma, said of the charity's work: "There's a proven link between the arts and educational attainment among our children, so why are the arts being cut out of the curriculum? Why not encourage self-confidence, team spirit and creative thinking among our young adults? Visit a Children & the Arts project and you will see how our children from Shetland to Southampton are gaining the skills and confidence to improve their lives and perhaps become the future guardians of our culture."
The evening, sponsored by Bedat & Co Geneve and which raised more than £60,000, wouldn't have been complete without 81-year-old actor Brian Blessed's rousing rendition of A Visit from St Nicholas.