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Joanna Lamond Lumley, OBE, FRGSmarker (born 1 May 1946) is an Englishmarker actress, best known for her roles in the Britishmarker television series The New Avengers, Sapphire and Steel, Absolutely Fabulous and Sensitive Skin. She is also a former model, a human rights activist (best known for her support for Gurkhas, the exiled Tibetan people and government, and Prospect Burma, a charity that offers grants to Burmese students, for whom she broadcast the BBC Radio 4 charity appeal in 2001 ), and an animal welfare activist.

Early life

Joanna Lamond Lumley was born on 1 May 1946 in Srinagarmarker, in the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Her parents were Major James Rutherford Lumley, who served in the 6th Gurkha Rifles, a regiment of the British Indian Army, and Beatrice Rose Weir. They married in 1941. After the independence of India in 1947, the Lumleys moved to Malaya (now Malaysia) and later settled in Kentmarker, Englandmarker. Joanna was educated at St Mary's School in Hastingsmarker, East Sussexmarker, England, and afterwards attended the Lucy Clayton finishing school.

Early career

Tall, slim and blonde, she spent three years as a photographic model, and appeared in a UK television advertisement for Nimble bread first screened in 1969. Lumley appeared in an early episode of The Bruce Forsyth Show in 1966 and also worked as a house model for Jean Muir.

Lumley did not receive any formal training at drama school. Her acting career began in 1969 with a small role in the film Some Girls Do and as a Bond girl in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, she played the English Girl among Blofeld's 'Angels of Death' and had two lines. She went on to have a brief but memorable role in Coronation Streetmarker, in which her character turned down Ken Barlow's offer of marriage.

In the Are You Being Served? episode "His and Hers" (season 1; episode 4), she was featured as Miss French, a perfume representative. In the episode "German Week" (season 3; episode 6), she appeared as "German Lady". She also appeared on the big screen in The Satanic Rites of Dracula, released 13 January 1974, starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. She also appeared in Steptoe & Son (Loathe Story).

Major roles

Throughout her career, she has specialised in playing upper-class parts, and her distinctive plummy voice has reinforced this. Lumley's first major role was as Purdey in The New Avengers, a revival of the secret agent series The Avengers. Although critical reaction to the series was lukewarm, the casting of Lumley was seen as inspired and following the tradition of iconic Avengers actresses Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg and Linda Thorson.

In 1979 she appeared in another series which acquired a following: Sapphire and Steel, with David McCallum. Conceived as ITV's answer to Doctor Who, Lumley played a mysterious ephemeral being ('Sapphire') who, with her collaborator 'Steel', dealt with breaches in the fabric of time.

Over a decade later, Lumley's career was boosted by her portrayal of the chain smoking, frequently inebriated, coke-sniffing (plus other drug) and sex-addicted fashion director Patsy Stone on the British comedy television series Absolutely Fabulous (1992 - 1996).

Other work has included: Lovejoy as widow Victoria Cavero, a film about a journey made by her grandparents in Bhutanmarker - In the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon (1996) - and A Rather English Marriage (nominated for a BAFTA for Best Actress 1999) and Dr Willoughby (1999). In 1995 she provided the voice of Annie the rag doll in the animated series The Forgotten Toys. In 1999 she also provided the voice for Sims the chicken in the BAFTA award winning animated series The Foxbusters. In 2000 she co-produced a new drama series The Cazalets. She has also appeared in a TV series on Sarawakmarker, where she spent time in her childhood. She has demonstrated her ability to go beyond stereotypical images, most notably in the monologue series of playlets Up In Town (2002), written by Hugo Blick, and focusing on a society hostess's realisation that her star is fading.

Lumley stars as the elderly Delilah Stagg in the 2006 sitcom Jam & Jerusalem with Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and Sue Johnston. In July 2007 she starred in the second series of the drama Sensitive Skin where she played the main character Davina Jackson. The BBC has said this will be the final series of the dark comedy.

Media work

As the possessor of one of the most recognised voices in the United Kingdom, Lumley has gained prominence as a voice-over artist. Users of AOL in the United Kingdommarker are familiar with Joanna Lumley's voice. She recorded the greetings "Welcome to AOL" and "You have email" for that company. She also did a voice over for the BBC series Posh Nosh as a voice-over usually saying "From the Posh Nosh range, (a faux product)."

She appeared as a guest host on Channel 4's The Friday Night Project, which aired on 3 August 2007.

From 2005-2006, she appeared in adverts for insurance brokers Privilege.

Lumley has also appeared on the last run of ITV1's Parkinson as a guest, on 27 October 2007, discussing the subject of young girls across the UK and how they need to behave better if they hope to be successful. She was asked to write the introduction to a re-edition in November 2007 of the book called The Magic Key To Charm written by the pioneering female journalist Eileen Ascroft. This is a book of tips to women, first written by Ascroft in 1938 about how to be glamorous. "I thought it was absolutely enchanting, it's how young women were told how to behave in the old days and I think it might be just coming back for a bit of a revival," she explained in the interview.
"Because, I have to say I adore our young ones and I think we have got some of the prettiest and loveliest girls in the world but I think sometimes the behaviour gets a bit bad and I think the girls let themselves down.
They are so pretty and so lovely but they should behave better, I think, then they will be more successful."

In 1999 she appeared in the Comic Relief Doctor Who parody "The Curse of Fatal Death" as the final incarnation of the Doctor. She also appeared with Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French and Sienna Miller in French and Saunders pastiche of Mamma Mia for Comic Relief 2009 in which she played the role of Tanya (Patsy in the spoof).

In 2005, she published her autobiography No Room for Secrets which was serialized by The Times, for which she was once a regular contributor.

In September and December 2008, and April 2009, the BBC showed Joanna Lumley in the Land of the Northern Lights, a documentary about her search to see the Northern Lights in northern Norwaymarker.

In May 2009, she supported the Green Party during the 2009 European Elections campaign. For Joanna Lumley, the work of Green MEPs in the European Parliamentmarker in pursuing human rights and animal rights made the Green Party "the obvious choice", and urged UK voters "to cast a positive vote for a better future by voting Green in the European Elections".

Gurkha Justice Campaign

In 2008 she became the public face of a campaign to provide all Gurkha veterans who served in the British Army before 1997 the right to settle in Britain. Those serving after 1997 had already been granted permission, but the UK Government has not extended the offer to all of the Gurkhas, who are natives of Nepalmarker. They have served Britain for more than 200 years with over 50,000 dying in service, and 13 have been awarded the Victoria Cross. On 20 November 2008, Ms. Lumley led a large all-party group including Gurkhas starting from Parliament Square to 10 Downing Street with a petition signed by 250,000 people. She supports the Gurkha Justice Campaign. On 24 April 2009 she stated that she was "ashamed" of the UK administration's decision to affix five criteria to the Gurkhas' right to settle in the UK. With the support of both Opposition parties and Labour rebel MPs on 29 April 2009 a Liberal Democrat motion that all Gurkhas be offered an equal right of residence was passed, allowing Gurkhas who served before 1997 residence in the UK. Following the Government defeat, the Minister for Immigration Phil Woolas announced that a further review would be completed by the middle of July.

On 5 May Joanna Lumley said that she had received private assurances of support from a senior member of the Royal Family, and attended a meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at 10 Downing Streetmarker the following day. Afterwards she described the meeting as "extremely positive", and praised Mr Brown, saying, "I trust him. I rely on him. And I know that he has now taken this matter into his own hands and so today is a very good day."

However, on the day following the meeting with Mr Brown, five Gurkha veterans who had applied for residency in the United Kingdom received letters telling them that their appeals had been rejected. Ms Lumley confronted Phil Woolas at the BBC Westminster studios about the issue and, after pursuing him around the studio, the pair held an impromptu press conference in which she pressured him into agreeing to further talks over the issue.

Following a Commons Home Affairs Committee meeting in which talks were held between campaigners, the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office on 19 May, Gordon Brown announced to the House of Commons on 20 May that the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith would make a statement on the issue the following day. Ms Smith subsequently announced that all Gurkha veterans who had served four years or more in the British Army before 1997 would be allowed to settle in Britain.

As a result of her campaigning skills there were calls for Joanna Lumley to stand as a Member of Parliament at the forthcoming general election. However, she has dismissed the suggestion. During an appearance on "Friday Night with Jonathan Ross" on 29 May, she reiterated that she had no desire to run for election to the House of Commons.

In July 2009, Lumley went on a visit to Nepalmarker, upon her arrival at Tribhuvan International Airportmarker she was greeted by crowds of Gurkha supporters, Lumley said in a statement, "I feel so humbled by the fact I'm going to meet so many ex-Gurkhas and their families, and see where they are and how they live." Whilst there, Lumley was hailed 'Daughter of Nepal' by the crowds of fans at the airport.

Personal life

Following her rise to fame, she revealed that she had been an unmarried mother during the 1960s when it was socially unacceptable; her son, James, was born in 1967. James Lumley's natural father is the photographer Michael Claydon and is of Anglo Indian ethnicity. The first of her two subsequent marriages was to comedy writer Jeremy Lloyd (Are You Being Served? see early career). In 1986 she married conductor Stephen Barlow; they live in London. They also have a house near the village of Penpontmarker in southern Scotland.

Lumley was awarded an OBE in 1995. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (FRGSmarker). She was made an honourary Doctor of Letters by the University of Kentmarker in July 1994.[13513] In 2006 she was awarded an honorary degree from the University of St. Andrewsmarker and in July 2008, she was also awarded an honorary doctorate from Queen's University Belfastmarker.

Alongside her work for the Gurkhas, Lumley is a supporter of many charities, including Suffolk Family Carers and Kids for Kids. She is a vegetarian, of forty years, and a keen supporter of animal rights charities, including CIWF and Viva!. She has donated signed books for the literacy and international development charity Book Aid International. She is patron of the Born Free Foundation and passionate about the Free Tibet campaign. Other charities supported include Mind, ActionAid and SANE.[13514]

Joanna Lumley also supports the Burma Campaign UK, an NGO that aims to stop the oppression of the Burmese people by a military regime.

Joanna Lumley was the special guest at the 35th anniversary gala of Chickenshed at Londons Royal Albert Hallmarker on 17th November 2009.


Year Film Role Notes
1969 Some Girls Do Uncredited
On Her Majesty's Secret Service The English Girl
1970 The Breaking of Bumbo Susie
Games That Lovers Play Fanny Hill
Tam-Lin Georgia
1971 The House That Dripped Blood Uncredited
1973 Don't Just Lie There, Say Something! Giselle Parkyn
The Satanic Rites of Dracula Jessica Van Helsing
1982 Trail of the Pink Panther Marie Jouvet
1983 Curse of the Pink Panther Countess Chandra
1989 Shirley Valentine Marjorie
1995 Innocent Lies Lady Helena Graves
1996 James and the Giant Peach Aunt Spiker
1997 Prince Valiant Morgan le Fay
1999 Parting Shots Freda
Mad Cows Gillian
2000 Maybe Baby Sheila
Whispers: An Elephant's Tale Half Tusk (voice)
2001 The Cat's Meow Elinor Glyn
2004 Standing Room Only Last in Line Short film
EuroTrip Hostel Clerk
Ella Enchanted Dame Olga
2005 The Magic Roundabout Ermintrude
Tim Burton's Corpse Bride Maudeline Everglot
2006 Dolls Madame Muscat Short film
2009 Boogie Woogie Alfreda Rhinegold
2010 This Beautiful Fantastic TBA In production

Year Film Role Notes
1969 The Wednesday Play Elsie Engelfield 1 episode
1971 It's Awfully Bad For Your Eyes, Darling Samantha Ryder-Ross TV series
1972 Steptoe and Son Bunty 1 episode 'Loathe Story'
1973 Coronation Streetmarker Elaine Perkins 102 episodes (although some say it was 104)
1973-75 Are You Being Served? Miss French/German Lady 2 episodes 'His and Hers', 'German Week'
1976 The Cuckoo Waltz Harriet Paulden 1 episode 'Babysitter'
1976-77 The New Avengers Purdey 26 episodes. BAFTA win - "Special Award" (2000)
1979 The Plank Hitchhiker
1979-82 Sapphire & Steel Sapphire 34 episodes
1981-85 The Kenny Everett Television Show Various 5 episodes
1982 The Weather in the Streets Kate TV film
1984 Mistral's Daughter Lally Longbridge TV mini-series
The Glory Boys Helen TV film
Oxbridge Blues Gigi 1 episode 'That Was Tory'
1986 The Two Ronnies Miss Dibley 1 episode
1990 A Ghost in Monte Carlo Lady Drayton TV film
1991 A Perfect Hero Loretta Stone TV miniseries
1992 Lovejoy Victoria Cavero 3 episodes
1992-2005 Absolutely Fabulous Patsy Stone 37 episodes. British Comedy Award win - "Best Comedy Actress" (1993)

BAFTA win - "Best Light Entertainment Performance" (1993)

BAFTA win - "Best Comedy Performance" (1995)

BAFTA nomination - "Best Comedy Performance" (1996)

BAFTA nomination - "Best Comedy Performance" (1997)

BAFTA nomination - "Best Comedy Performance" (2002)
1993 Cluedo Mrs. Peacock 6 episodes
1994 Girl Friday TV series
1994-95 Class Act Kate Swift 14 episodes
1995 Cold Comfort Farm Mrs. Mary Smiling TV film
The Forgotten Toys Annie (voice) Animated series
1996 Roseanne Patsy Stone 1 episode 'Satan, Darling'
1998 The Tale of Sweeney Todd Mrs. Lovett TV film
Coming Home Diana Carey-Lewis TV serial
A Rather English Marriage Liz Franks TV film. BAFTA nomination - "Best Actress"
1999 Alice in Wonderland Tiger Lily TV film
Nancherrow Diana Carey-Lewis TV film
Foxbusters Sims (voice) Animation series
Dr Willoughby Donna Sinclair 1 series of 6 episodes
2000 Mirrorball Jackie Riviera Pilot
2002 Up In Town Madison Blakelock TV series. British Comedy Award nomination - "Best Comedy Actress"
2004, 2009 Marple Dolly Bantry 2 episodes 'The Body in the Library' & 'The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side'
2005-07 Sensitive Skin Davina Jackson 12 episodes
2006–present Jam & Jerusalem Delilah Stagg 6 episodes
2009 Lewis Esme Ford 1 episode 'Counter Culture Blues'

Year Film Role Notes
2008 Joanna Lumley in the Land of the Northern Lights Herself
Ian Fleming: Where Bond Began Herself
2009 Joanna Lumley Catwoman Herself



By Lumley

  • Peacocks and Commas: Best of the "Spectator" Competitions (1983) - Editor
  • Stare Back and Smile: Memoirs (1989) - Autobiography
  • Forces Sweethearts
  • Girl Friday (1994)
  • In the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon (1997)
  • No Room for Secrets (2005) - Autobiography

She has also narrated a number of audiobooks and provided forewords for works by other authors.

About Lumley

  • Joanna Lumley — The Biography by Tim Ewbank and Stafford Hildred; an unauthorised biography.


  2. Family detective: Joanna Lumley
  4. BBC Learning English 2007
  6. Absolute Secret The Times. 4 March 2005
  7. Joanna Lumley chills in the Land of Northern Lights The Times. 6 September 2008
  8. [1]

External links

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