Brian Blessed and June Brown sing carols for Blind Veterans UK

Brian Blessed has been space training in Moscow before St Marylebone Church event

Friday, 8th December 2017 — By Helen Chapman

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June  Brown, Brian Blessed and Nick Caplin at the event in St Marylebone Church 

Actor Brian Blessed and June Brown – best known for her role as Dot Cotton in Eastenders – sang carols in St Marylebone Parish Church at a fundraiser for blind veterans.

Mr Blessed read Clement Clarke Moore’s ’Twas the Night Before Christmas in his traditional booming voice and there was an hour of prayers, hymns and readings.

He told the Extra he had enjoyed the Blind Veterans UK concert so much he wished it had gone on for longer. He said: “When I was a kid… I believed in Father Christmas until I was 12 years of age. It was simply magical.

“My favourite instrument is the trumpet because when they play… wow! They just take your head off. The Night Before Christmas is a masterpiece in writing, speed and embracing the old Father Santa Claus. It’s brilliantly written and I like doing the noise of the reindeer.”

On the importance of the event, he said: “Blind people have great sight and insight. I just always learn from blind people. They seem to see more about life. It’s as Obi-Wan Kenobi says to Skywalker, ‘Don’t trust your eyes because they might deceive you’.”

“Homer who wrote the Odyssey was blind. He wrote about battles, monsters and Cyclops with such clarity. The blindness gives him sight.”

Mr Blessed was awarded an OBE for services to the arts and charity and has also raised money for wild animals while climbing Mount Everest.

He said: “I am the oldest man to climb Everest without oxygen. I am the oldest man to reach the North Pole–50 percent of my life is exploration and 50 per cent is acting.

“I’ve just completed space training in Moscow, that’s why I’ve got double vision at the moment – but clear wit! And Réunion Island in the Pacific with NASA. Now I’m a qualified cosmonaut. They want to put me in space!”

Veteran Edward Gaines, who was born in Marylebone, spoke at the event, saying how happy he was to return to the church, the place of his baptism.He said he was known as “steady Eddie, always ready”, and he started receiving support from Blind Veterans UK last year after losing his sight due to age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of sight loss in older people.

Nick Caplin, Blind Veterans UK CEO, said: “It’s wonderful to see Eddie here. Eddie lives by himself in a bungalow in Bournemouth, a remarkable demonstration of independence in his life. Our purpose in this extraordinary community is to help people like Eddie to rediscover some joy and independence in their lives.”

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