Saturday 5 October 2019

I Married Gemma on Monty Python's 50th Anniversary

On 5th October 2019 at the beautiful Ravenswood wedding venue, I married my fellow Python-fan devotee love, Gemma, at our heavily themed Monty Python wedding.

Throughout the building, around 150 Monty Python "exhibits" were on display including very silly posters, a fish tank full of fish with faces, a 16-ton weight hanging over everyone's head and a nine-foot dead parrot on the top table. They took Gemma two years to create.

We performed the Buying a Bed sketch and we sang and performed the Sit On My Face sketch, and to cap it all, Carol Cleveland herself turned up by surprise on the day and became our guest of honour! During the ceremony, the rings were presented within the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch and, yes, we did have Spam on the menu.

It was SUCH a fun, happy day. Many of the guests, themselves not Monty Python fans, told us that it was the best wedding they had EVER been to!

The wedding even has its own website:

Thursday 26 September 2019

'And Then They Came for Me' in the presence of Eva Schloss at Solihull School

I was honoured to be invited back to Solihull School on Monday 23rd September 2019, the previous time being last January for the screening of No Asylum - the Untold Chapter of Anne Frank's Story in the presence of Holocaust survivor and Anne Frank's stepsister, Eva Schloss. This time it was for a performance of And Then They Came For Me by James Still (Moondog Productions), also in the presence of Eva Schloss.

The play is, essentially, a very real and graphic multi-media representation of Eva's entire Holocaust experience. It brings it home to you much more effectively than reading about it or even watching it on film. And Then They Came For Me seems to be permanently on tour, so go and watch it - it's a must-see! For me, it was an unforgettable experience which, I feel, should be part of every school's Holocaust education curriculum.

Back row:
David Lloyd Headmaster: John Wood, son of Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Berney, Bergen Belsen liberator; The Right Honourable The Lord Glasman, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research UK
Front row:
Mark Penney Head of the Junior School; Diana Crabtree; Eva Schloss MBE; Lord Lieutenant of the West Midlands, John Crabtree OBE

Headmaster of Solihull School, David Lloyd, addressing the audience before the start of the play, 
with Eva Schloss and many other dignitaries in the front row. 

Patrick Withey as a Hitler Youth

Nazi officials (Patrick Withey and Benjamin Hardy-Phillips) arresting Eva (Gemma Reynolds) 

A testimony by Eva plays on the big screen while Patrick, Benjamin and Gemma recreate Eva's interrogation 

The Hitler Youth telling us how he was ordered to strangle his puppy, 
otherwise he'd never be a real German 
The cast on stage with Eva
After the play, Eva answered questions from Mark Penney, Head of the Junior School 
(organiser of the event) and from the audience

Eva with the cast after the show (left to right: Eva Schloss, Patrick Withey, Savannah Betts, 
Benjamin Hardy-Phillips, Gemma Reynolds)

Sunday 22 September 2019

An Evening Celebrating the Life of Gena Turgel, MBE

I was so pleased to be invited to this very special event, hosted by Holocaust Educational Trust in honour of Holocaust survivor, Gena Turgel, who sadly passed away last year.

My connection with her was via my late father, Belsen liberator, Leonard Berney. Gena was one of the thousands of prisoners at Bergen Belsen, and after liberation, my father was the Commander of the Belsen Camp for Displaced Persons. Another member of the liberating forces was Norman Turgel. He met Gena at Belsen and pretty much, there and then, decided he was going to marry her.

He wanted to hold an engagement party at the Displaced Persons camp, but in order to do that, he had to ask permission from my father.  Luckily, Dad said yes! This story, which includes a photo of myself with Gena, appeared in the Daily Mail in 2015 on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Belsen.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Norman Turgel in Hyde Park in 1985 at an event celebrating the 40th anniversary of the liberation of Belsen. Norman told me he remembered my father from their time together at Belsen in 1945.

The evening, in the presence of many of Gena's family, celebrating her took place at the Arts Depot in North Finchley, London on 12th September 2019. It was a very moving, educational and inspirational, musical evening. Before the show, Gena's wedding dress, famously made out of an army parachute (now preserved at the Imperial War Museum), was on display. Here is a selection of my photos from the event:

Gena's wedding dress made from a parachute

Gena's grandson, Chazan Jonny Turgel, accompanied by Kramer Camerata

Karen Pollock MBE (Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust)

Natasha Kaplinksy OBE

Bob Blackman MP, Tracy Ann Oberman (who also spoke at the event), me
and behind me, the Rt Hon Ed Balls

Sunday 23 June 2019

Re-enacting the intro to Monty Python's Cheese Shop sketch

Found myself in Richmond, so I sallied forth to One Paved Court to re-enact the intro to Monty Python's Cheese Shop Sketch - you're forced to! Photos and video by Gemma Harris​

Saturday 25 May 2019

The media seem to like our upcoming Monty Python-themed wedding a lot!

First, there was our live interview on the BBC News Channel on 18th April 2019, the 40th anniversary of Monty Python's Life of Brian, during which they not only asked about the wedding (that will be held at the beautiful 15th century wedding venue, Ravenswood, in Sharpthorne, near East Grinstead), but they even played my proposal video. And then this, in The Sun (page 12, 20th May 2019):

And then this, in The Brighton Argus (the entire page 3, 22 May 2019):
If this is the media coverage we are getting, four months before the wedding, what kind of coverage will we get on the big day itself, I wonder...!

Friday 19 April 2019

The We-Welease of Monty Python's The Life of Brian

Holding our Limited Edition Packs
Went to see the 40th-anniversary re-release (we-welease) of Monty Python's The Life Of Brian with Gemma and Hy Money at Scott Cinemas East Grinstead last night.

We were all given a Limited Edition Pack filled with lots of silly things: a fake beard, a reprint of an article by Sanjeev Bhaskar about the film, an info sheet on the film which included origami instructions on how to turn the sheet into a boulder (could come in handy for a stoning), the movie's song lyrics, a sheet of silly stickers and the movie poster.

It was great seeing the film yet again. Hearing the audience laugh adds another dimension to the enjoyment of watching movies that you just don't get when with home viewing.

Gemma, pretending to be a man, thanks to the fake beard in the pack
Gemma, me and Hy Money after the film

Talking about Monty Python's "Life of Brian" on the BBC News Channel

Simon McCoy interviewing Gemma and me about Monty Python's "Life of Brain"
What an honour, being asked to talk about Monty Python's "Life of Brian" on the BBC News Channel on the film's 40th anniversary yesterday (18th April 2019)! Our first time on live TV. A bit nerve-wracking! Simon McCoy said, "Just relax and imagine it's just us three having a chat." He was hoping we would somehow forget about the millions watching all over the world! You can watch the interview here:

We mention "Pythonesque Dating (for Monty Python Fans Looking for Love)", the Facebook Group I set up through which I found Gemma who is as passionate about Monty Python as I am. Here's the link:

We would love the group to produce another happy Python couple!

It was great to see the behind-the-scenes of the studio

About to do the interview

On our way home

Monday 18 February 2019

Screening of 'No Asylum - The Untold Chapter of Anne Frank's Story' at Solihull School

I was honoured to be invited to this event, held on 21st January 2019 at Solihull School to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2019! 

It was all so moving and it really got across the message of the importance of Holocaust education, and that none of us can be bystanders in the face of racial, religious or gender hatred, prejudice or discrimination. 

It is vital that we learn from history and speak up straight away before it's too late.

Back row: Gemma Harris, John Wood, Joyce Weinrib, Mark Penney, Tim Robertson
Front row: Eva Schloss, Tomi Reichental, Mindu Hornick (Photo: Solihull School)
Back row: John Wood
Front row: Eva Schloss, Tomi Reichental, Mindu Hornick
 (Photo: Solihull School)
 Mindu Hornick, Tomi Reichental, Eva Schloss
The Q&A after the screening of 'No Asylum'  (Photo: Solihull School)
Mark Penney talking about Belsen survivor Nanette Blitz Konig
Anne Frank's stepsister Eva Schloss  (Photo: Solihull School)