Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes has become Vice President of the Catholic Association of Performing Arts. The announcement was made during a special centenary dinner at Alan Hall in Chelsea. During the evening, Lord Fellowes said that Catholicism would be entering the storyline of his popular ITV series “Downton Abbey” at some point in the near future. When questioned about this, he would not say whether the development would be in the two hour Christmas Day special next week, or the new series in 2012.
Guests of honour at the special dinner, were Archbishop Vincent Nichols, President of the Association, actor Frank Finlay CBE, Chairman Richard O’ Callaghan, Frank Comerford, owner of the Stage newspaper, Fr Pat Maloney, National Theatre Chaplain, CAaPA Chaplain Fr Alan Robinson and trustee Mgr Vlad Felzmann. Lord Julian Fellowes came with his wife Lady Emma, lady in waiting to Princess Michael of Kent.
The Catholic Stage Guild was founded in 1911 by Mgr Robert Hugh Benson, a former Anglican priest and youngest son of Edward White Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury, to encourage and support Catholics in the theatre and allied professions spiritually and artistically. A colourful character, he bequeathed his home in Hertfordshire to the Archbishop of Westminster. It has been the country residence of all Archbishops of Westminster ever since.
During this centenary year, CaAPA on the Road has performed entertainments at churches, care homes, including Denville Hall for retired show business performers, and other venues. A centenary concert, compered by Vice President, comedian Don Maclean raised funds for CAFOD at Westminster Cathedral Hall.
Lord Fellowes, who won an Oscar for his Gosford Park screenplay, has become a household name as the creator of “Downton Abbey.” During his speech he said that one third of the adult population watched the show. “The series will go on as long as people want it to” he said.
Fellowes is also the author of the stage version of “Mary Poppins,” still going strong on Broadway, in London and on tour.