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Anderson's 'X-rated reading' steals show at literacy fundraiser

Published 06/10/2016

Left to right, Miriam Margolyes, Stephen Mangan and Toby Jones read their letters
Left to right, Miriam Margolyes, Stephen Mangan and Toby Jones read their letters

The X Files star Gillian Anderson stole the show at a literacy fundraising event with the reading of a cheeky letter penned by a 97-year-old in a care home.

Anderson's letter was a thank you sent from Mary Grant in 1982, after a gift was delivered to her.

In the letter, which was read live to an audience at the Freemasons' Hall in London, Ms Grant thanks the sender, Mr A Walker, for the "lovely transistor radio you and your district so kindly sent me for my birthday".

She recounts how her roommate Maggie Cook has had a radio for a long time, but does not share it with her. Grant goes on to say that Cook accidentally knocked her radio off the shelf, smashing it into many pieces.

She ends her letter writing: "It smashed into many pieces, and caused her to cry. It was so sad. Fortunately, I had my new radio. Knowing this, Maggie asked if she could listen to mine. I told her to f*** off."

The letter was just one of a series of historic letters being read by a string of famous actors, musicians and writers as part of Letters Live.

Inspired by Shaun Usher's best-selling Letters of Note series and website, as well as Simon Garfield's book To The Letter, the event sees actors and performers reading out literary correspondence to a live audience.

Model Lily Cole and Bond actor Colin Salmon were a hit as they read a letter exchange between physicist Albert Einstein and a young girl named Phyllis, who in the January of 1936 wrote to him on behalf of her Sunday school to ask: "Do scientists pray?"

Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle read a letter written by German Olympic long-jumper Luz Long (born Carl Ludwig Long) and Jesse Owens, who despite being a rival in the same sporting category, became a close friend of his.

Owens went on to win four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics hosted by Adolf Hilter, after Long had given him advice for the event.

Long wrote the letter to Owens during the Second World War from North Africa where he was stationed. It is believed to have only reached Owens a year after it was sent.

In the letter, Long asks his friend to find his son, and tell him about his father. Years later Owens did track down and meet Long's son, he also went on to be the best man at his wedding.

A second letter read by the Trainspotting director was from British filmmaker Michael Powell to renowned American director Martin Scorsese after reading his script for the movie Wise Guys, which later became known as Goodfellas.

Powell, who died just months before the film was released, started the letter affectionately calling Scorsese "Marty" and commended him on "one of the best constructed scripts that I have ever read".

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels actor Nick Moran read a fax sent by singer Iggy Pop to a journalist after an interview in 1995.

In the fax, Pop went on to say "Our gods are assholes" and bemoaned the fact that "America today is a nation of midgets led by dwarves".

Pop ended his fax writing: "Everything sucks. Don't bother me. I hate it all. heavy metal. hollywood movies. SCHPOLOOGY! YeHEHCHH!"

Dad's Army star Toby Jones and Casualty and Sherlock actress Louise Brealey also read letters.

Brealey drew laughs aplenty as she read responses to "internet commenters" from American actress and comedian Tina Fey.

Charities supported by the five-night event include the Ministry of Stories, First Story and Help Refugees.

Other speakers who have featured in the current series include Jude Law, Michael Palin, Harry Potter theatre star Noma Dumezweni and satirist Julian Clary

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