By Nicci Rae
Leafy and tranquil, Stanmore is probably best known for being home to the former RAF Bentley Priory station which was the base of the Fighter Command during both world wars, however, more recently, it was home to an altogether more familiar name.
Yeah, but no….but yeah
Little Britain star, Matt Lucas, was born and raised in Stanmore and attended Aylward Primary School before going on to the exclusive Haberdasher’s Aske’s boys school. In fact, in 2018, Matt was a guest of honour during the opening of Aylward Primary School’s new building, a school which he attended from 1979,
While Matt has fond memories of his time in Stanmore, it wasn’t always plain sailing. At the age of four, Matt was hit by a car which resulted in him losing all of his hair; something which, today, he is philosophical about, saying, ‘It doesn’t bother me. My hair actually grew back in when I was seven, only to fall out again.
There were these big clumps on my pillow when I woke up. That was the only trick God played on me – to give me back my hair and then take it away for good’.
Sadly, there was more heartache in store for Matt when, in his teens, his beloved father was arrested and sentenced to four years for fraud. This was an incredibly traumatic time for the once happy family and, a family friend remarked, ‘It was a big scandal because they lived in a smart neighbourhood where this type of thing didn’t happen.
They seemed to everyone to be a very respectable family. On his father’s release from prison, Matt’s parents divorced, devastating both Matt and his brother, Howard.
However, Matt remained close to his father, with whom he shared a passion for Arsenal Football Club. Tragically, Matt’s father, John, died of a heart attack in 1996 at the age of 52. Matt, who was touring with Shooting Stars in Glasgow at the time, was just 22 years of age, immediately travelled back to England to be with his family.
The perfect partnership
Matt is probably best known for his collaborations with David Walliams who he met first at the National Youth Theatre and then again when he attended Bristol University.
While at university, the two created a comedy routine around a character named Sir Bernard Chumley – a character which Matt would portray at the infamous Edinburgh Festival in 1994, 1995 and 1996. The dynamic duo would go on to team up with comedy duo Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer on a number of projects including the Smell of Reeves And Mortimer, Bang Bang It’s Reeves And Mortimer and, of course, Shooting Stars, on which Matt performed each week as a drum-playing baby.
I want that one!
These days, we can’t, of course, think of Matt Lucas without thinking about Little Britain. Originally a radio show which aired in 2000, the program was a hit and quickly moved from Radio 4 to BBC3 and, finally, to terrestrial TV in 2003. The hugely popular television show won a number of awards including BAFTAs and Royal Television Society Awards and, Melvyn Bragg once compared Matt and David to the creators of The Goon Show, saying, ‘They are hitting new heights of comedy’.
The only gay in the village
As Matt’s career continued to soar into the stratosphere, so too did his private life and, in December 2006, he made his relationship with TV producer, Kevin McGee, official with a civil partnership. Unfortunately, Matt’s life was once again thrown into turmoil in October 2008 when the two separated and, subsequently, dissolved their civil partnership.
The following year, almost a year to the day of the dissolution of the partnership, Kevin was tragically found dead after taking his own life. Despite his gregarious and larger than life TV personas, Matt is an incredibly private person who tends to shun the usual showbiz parties and he was, understandably, discomfited by the intrusive attention of the press during this extremely difficult time.
Home grown talent
In 2021, Matt Lucas is a household name who has appeared on stage and screen including Hollywood films such as Tim Burton’s 2010 production of Alice In Wonderland, in which he starred with Johnny Depp and Ann Hathaway. Despite his meteoric rise to fame, Matt remains close to his roots in Stanmore where he attended the District Reform Synagogue which he remembers fondly, ‘I was a good boy.
Shul on Saturday mornings, Hebrew classes on Sunday mornings, club on Sunday afternoons. More Hebrew classes on Tuesday and cubs on a Thursday!’ In April 2006, EDRS aired an evening with Matt Lucas titled ‘An Audience with…….Little Edgware’ which raised nearly £5000.
These days, Matt uses his fame to help the Stanmore community and was involved with the Karen Morris Memorial Trust, a charity which was created to continue with the fundraising work of 23 year old Karen Morris, a former childhood friend of Matt’s, who died from leukaemia in 1998. Matt is also a patron of Karen’s homes which supply accommodation for the families of those who are in hospital.
While there’s no telling what the future will hold for Matt’s personal and professional lives, we can be sure that it certainly won’t be dull.
Last September, Matt starred in a Great British Bake off sketch in which he impersonated Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, making a bumbling speech while standing behind a podium which read, ‘Stay Alert, Protect Cake, Save Loaves’. The sketch received over 200 complaints which just goes to show that, in the world of comedy, you can’t win ‘em all.