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Tuesday, December 8, 1998 Published at 13:36 GMT


Coward statue unveiled

The Queen Mother spoke of her friendship for Noel Coward

A statue of the playwright, songwriter and wit Noel Coward has been unveiled by the Queen Mother in the countdown to the centenary of his birth next year.

Watch the Queen Mother unveil the statue in memory of Noel Coward
The Queen Mother joined Culture Secretary Chris Smith and a number of celebrities as she revealed a bust of the star in the foyer of London's Theatre Royal in Drury Lane.

The theatre was chosen because it was the venue for the premieres of two of his productions - Cavalcade in 1931 and Pacific 1860 in 1946.

The satirist, who also acted in films including The Italian Job and wartime propaganda movie In Which We Serve, was a friend of the Queen Mother for many years.

[ image: The Queen Mother arriving at the Theatre Royal]
The Queen Mother arriving at the Theatre Royal
Among their many meetings, she lunched with him during an official visit to Jamaica - where he lived - in 1965 and she was a guest at his memorial service the year he died.

After she unveiled the statue the Queen Mother said: "The memory of Noel Coward, his brilliance, his brilliant composing and playwriting gave immense pleasure to so many people all over the world.

"But I think we are fortunate to be the legatees of his lovely music and his light-hearted fun.

"And in his own words he did indeed make music for the people." Next year Coward, who died in 1973, will be remembered with a series of events including a season of BBC Radio programmes, theatre revivals of his plays and reissues of some of his works in print.

Birmingham University is also hosting an academic conference on his works in the winter term of 1999.

Coward was the author of classic songs such as Don't Put Your Daughter On The Stage Mrs Worthington, Mad About The Boy and Mad Dogs And Englishmen.

Earlier this year a charity album called Twentieth Century Blues - the brainchild of Pet Shop Boys star Neil Tennant - which featured Sting and Robbie Williams alongside other stars covering Coward songs was released.

Many of the artists also performed his songs at a fund-raising gala to boost HIV/Aids prevention projects in this country and abroad.

Also at the unveiling ceremony on Tuesday were actress Joanna Lumley and Sheridan Morley, who is directing Coward's Song Of Twilight at the King's Head Theatre in London next month.

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