“I am indebted to letters,” remarked Helena. “We had to sit in alphabetical order… all my best friends have a surname beginning with B!”
Theirs is a friendship that has endured 40 years of life’s ups and downs. When asked what her desert island luxury item would be, Helena responded “Allie” in a flash. “Allie is a professional and conscientious friend. We chat, we FaceTime, we holiday, we shop, she is my phone-a-friend. We couldn’t function without each other.”
Over the course of the evening, award-winning actress Helena Bonham Carter and poet Allie Esiri took the excited audience on a charming journey through their 40-year-long friendship, whilst performing and discussing an assortment of poems.
The selection chosen consisted of the pair’s favourites, ones they felt connected to significant moments in their lives and friendship, or that resonated with them in some way.
Commenting on her time at South Hampstead High School, Helena said there was "no envy or one-upmanship. Friendships were a cornerstone – what a gift. I was very happy here. I think I was more adult when I was child than I am now."
Since the introduction of South Hampstead’s Speaker Series initiative in 2017, the leading independent girl's school has welcomed a range of notable guests with varying careers, life experiences and world outlooks to give talks and answer questions. Current and past pupils, parents and staff are all invited along to listen and to pose their questions to the guests.
Allie, who has been described as a ‘poetry powerhouse’ and Helena, also spoke about the impact and power that poetry has, as well as its ability to enchant readers and allow them to express their innermost thoughts and feelings.
“A poem can transport you into somebody else’s shoes. It can also remind you that you are not alone” Allie said.
Drawing on similarities between poetry and acting, Helena said: “They can both transport you to new places and you don’t even need a passport.”
The two women also took the time to offer advice to the current students of South Hampstead, again with the help of accompanying poems, encouraging them to work hard, be bold and stay true to themselves, with Helena saying: “Remind yourselves that you’re special, unique – and that no one can be better at being you than you.”
The friends added: “Do something you love. Work hard at it, do your prep… but then jump and trust that you can fly.”
Thrilled guests left with signed copies of Allie’s poetry anthologies A Poem for Every Night of the Year and A Poem for Every Day of the Year, which The Guardian recently named in its Top 10 poetry anthologies. Harry Potter actress Helena also gave out signatures, much to the delight of the South Hampstead students.
South Hampstead High School, 3 Maresfield Gardens, London, NW3 5SS. Tel: 020 3944 1316.
Visit the South Hampstead High School website here.