(via Nottingham Post)
It was a far cry from TV creation Wolfie Smith shouting “Power to the people” in a memorable sitcom nearly 40 years ago.
In a dignified ceremony in a council chamber, that series’ star actor Robert Lindsay was made freeman of the borough of Erewash.
That enables him to wear a badge of office, complete with plush ribbon, as well as a framed scroll to hang on the wall. The honour marks his place as Ilkeston’s most famous son.
“He would have seen it as a symbol of power. After all that was his cry, ‘power to the people,'” said Robert, on receiving the award in Ilkeston Town Hall. Driving rain forced organisers to abandon the plan to stage it in the Market Place.
Hundreds packed into the council chamber, where he appeared in a one act play “Boy with a Knife” while a pupil of Gladstone Secondary School.
Teacher John Lally had spotted his talent and Robert studied at Clarendon College, Nottingham, before heading to RADA and global fame, starting with the BBC comedy “Get Some In” followed by “Citizen Smith.”
He became famous in Broadway as star of the musical “Me and My Girl,” spending several years in the US. He found Americans amused to think he came from an area called “Earwash.” He jokingly often had to correct them.
And he recalled how it might never have happened if he had heeded the guidance of his careers master Brock Levers. When saying he wanted to become an actor, he was told: “Why don’t you become a hairdresser?”
Robert, who has played many major Shakespearian roles, said: “That shows what they thought about acting in the early sixties.
“But I later thought with mines shut and Stanton Staveley about to close and a lot of people struggling, I had chosen the most vulnerable and ridiculous profession and am still working in it.”
As one of millions who failed to get into a grammar school, he said: “There was a great sense of failure with the 11-plus and I am really against the Tories bringing the grammar schools back and make a child feel like that at 11. It is totally wrong.”
Being a freeman brings no privileges for Robert, 66, who often returns to his hometown to visit his brother, sister and other relatives.
But he joked that he might acquire a flock of geese to drive across town – an honour granted to freemen in some cities.
He regretted having to lose his Ilkeston accent to progress in his profession, as well as having to drop his real surname Stephenson because that would have confused him with another actor.
“I tell people now not to drop accents and can still do the ‘ey up’ Ilkeston one but when I went to RADA, I can remember my mum saying ‘he does talk lovely.'”
After the ceremony, he ignored the rain and chatted to dozens of people who huddled under umbrellas in the Market Place
before he left to prepare for his next assignment. Next Saturday, he will be in Prague recording scenes of a film in which he plays the father of maths genius Albert Einstein.
The award was approved unanimously by the borough council. Conservative leader Chris Corbett said: “It was a very proud moment for the area. He is one our most famous sons.”