Gants Hill’s Greatest Caperer

One of the borough’s best loved creations has been immortalised in a biography written by a fellow Ilfordian.

Ken Campbell, the comedian, actor, writer and director who grew up in Gants Hill, always “stayed true to his Ilford roots,” according to Ken Campbell, the Great Caper, released last week.

The book is written by theatre critic Michael Coveney, who has been praised for capturing the essence of Redbridge’s most eccentric resident.

Mr Coveney, who grew up in Mannin Road, Chadwell, and said: “There was that Ilford, Essex thing about him that attracted me, and he never really moved away from Ilford spiritually.

“When he really got going, in the 1970s is where all his Ilford stuff is.”


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Ken Campbell was born in King George’s Hospital, Goodmayes, in 1941 and grew up in Haigville Gardens, Barkingside. He first attended Gearies School, Gants Hill Crescent, Gants Hill.

Later, during his time with Ilford based theatre group the Renegade, Campbell so impressed the Recorder theatre critic that he was awarded best supporting actor for his role as Alfie, in a View from the Bridge.

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He went on to perform his shows all over the country, and to star alongside Alf Garnett as his neighbour in in Sickness and in Health.

Michael Coveney, who also performed with the Renegades, said: “He won a place at Cambridge but didn’t go - instead he got a grant to go to Rada.

“He was always true to his Ilford roots but he was cleverer than the Cambridge lot.

One of Campbell’s first his first television plays was set in the fictional Gants Hill Tennis Club and even when he died of a heart attack in 2008 he was buried nearby in Epping Forest.

The strong link to his unique Ilford upbringing is a central them in The Great Caper, which was book of the week on Radio Four last week.

Ken Campbell, The Great Caper, by Michael Coveney, is published by Nick Hern Books.

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