Spike Milligan scriptwriter becomes parish priest

Spike Milligan alongside Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe in The Goons - ALAMY
Spike Milligan alongside Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe in The Goons - ALAMY

A church in Kent could enjoy an amusing Easter sermon. Martin Booth, who wrote scripts for Ronnie Barker and Spike Milligan, has become the priest in charge of St Mary’s, near Sevenoaks.

“I’ve never liked performing, and was always a backroom boy, but, since I’ve been in my parish, I’m much happier in front of an audience,” he says. “It’s not just about making people laugh, which is a blessing in itself, it’s also about helping them in life.

“I was writing sketches for people who were my heroes like Spike Milligan. I’d grown up with The Goon Show and it was an incredible honour to write that stuff which Spike not only accepted as of a reasonable standard but was prepared to go out and perform. I’ve watched some of our greatest performers in action – so I’ve learnt about comic timing.

“I use humour in my services, but I’ll also try to include a funny anecdote in my sermon. It’s a way of showing we all have ups and downs in our lives.”

He adds: “In showbiz, I never really found myself in a situation where I had to mock religion. For more than 20 years, I’d been involved in the church and thought about being ordained a number of times. The decision definitely wasn’t an overnight thing. I would ask myself if I could do more good in my showbiz job or as a parish priest?”

Escaping prison typecasting

Omid Djalili, whose parents are Iranian, is to play Morgan Freeman’s role in a stage version of The Shawshank Redemption film.

“I will not be blacking up, although there was a question for a little while,” the comedian says at the Chortle Awards at the Café de Paris.

Snappy dresser

Naomi Campbell's American “reality” modelling show, The Face, will be transferred to this country later this year. Julien Macdonald, who is a judge on the rival Britain's Next Top Model is unconcerned.

“I was surprised that she decided to do reality television, as she has got a reputation for being quite snappy and people think she can be quite unapproachable,” the Welsh designer tells Mandrake.

He adds, carefully: “She is, actually, a soft and caring kind of woman. She is always nice to me, but you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of her.”

Bonnie finds new Mr Right

As stars of two of the most successful series, Bonnie Wright, who played Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter films, and Jamie Campbell Bower, a vampire in Twilight, cast a spell as a couple. Sadly, they broke off their engagement last summer, but now Wright tells me that she has a new boyfriend.

"Yes, I am with someone," she says at the launch of Esquire’s Big Black Book with Johnnie Walker Gold Label.

The 22-year-old actress refuses to disclose his name, though. "I learnt my lesson from the last time that it isn’t something I should talk about so openly. I am happy – I’ll say that."


"They are gastro-porn: gorgeous-looking cooks and luscious-looking meals. Instead, we should have pictures of all the things which go wrong."

Julian Barnes, the novelist, on why he hates cookery books .

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