Colin Firth presented the book “The People Speak: Voices that changed Britain” last night in Notting Hill

Colin Firth and editor Anthony Arnove

Colin Firth appeared on stage last night in London at the Notting Hill’s venue The Tabernacle, in a performance of ‘The People Speak; Voices That Changed Britain‘, based on the book he co-wrote with Anthony Arnove and which is published by Canongate. The Oscar and Bafta-winning actor led the one-off live event featuring a star-studded cast, including the likes of Sir Ian McKellen, Celia Imrie, Rupert Everett, Emily Blunt, Juliet Stevenson, who read excerpts, and the folk band, The Unthanks, who performed a short set.

Colin Firth at Tabernacle – photo courtesy of

The reading included 1729 Jonathan Swift’s satirical essay “A modest proposal”, a quote from Sir Thomas More “Hand D” written by Shakespeare and performed by sir Ian McKellen, an excerpt from Virginia Woolf’s “A room of one’s own”, read by Juliet Stevenson. Half way through the evening, Colin Firth regained the stage only to announce that someone had called last second to ask for a ticket to the event: his reply had been that the show was sold out, though there was some available place yet on the stage….. And there the wonderful Vanessa Redgrave appeared, as magnetic and powerful as ever!

Vanessa Redgrave giving a surprise performance at Tabernacle – photo courtesy of

The book is a compilation of influential speeches, letters and songs taken from the voices of everyday people and dissenters throughout British history to the present day. Firth co-wrote it with author and editor Anthony Arnove, who brought the project from its successful launch in the US, and historian David Horspool.

The collection contains speeches from inspiring figures, including the British Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, Thomas Carlyle and Oscar Wilde and topics vary from the battles for democracy to the fight for human rights the dissenters and rebels have been engaged in from the 12th century to today.

As reported in a recent interview, Firth said that history should be seen from different points of view, as seeing only one version of the historical facts isn’t enough: it is absolutely critical for everyone to keep doubt alive when judging the events that shaped our society.

As Colin Firth remarked at the end of his presentation: ” In the interest of brevity we’re keeping the event to 500 years….so I do hope you’ve been to the washroom.”…….