Harry Potter star Miriam Margolyes slams actors charity for treating some of Britain’s most celebrated performers with ‘contempt’ amid bitter row
- She said those in need of help from Actors’ Benevolent Fund (ABF) were let down
- Dispute already saw Dame Penelope Keith ousted as organisation’s president
Harry Potter favourite Miriam Margolyes yesterday hit out at how some of Britain’s most celebrated actors have been treated with ‘contempt’ amid a bitter charity row.
The veteran star also said hard-up members of the profession in need of help from the prestigious Actors’ Benevolent Fund (ABF) had been let down by the ‘broken’ charities watchdog.
Her comments are the latest twist in a long-running dispute which saw Dame Penelope Keith – best known for her comic roles in The Good Life and To The Manor Born – ousted as president of the organisation.
Dame Penelope, 83, was one of ten trustees removed from the charity’s council last year by another group of actors in what observers described as a ‘coup’.
They allege that they were blocked from accessing financial information and accused some remaining trustees of ‘sham governance’, while counterclaims were made of bullying and harassment.
Harry Potter favourite Miriam Margolyes (pictured) yesterday hit out at how some of Britain’s most celebrated actors have been treated with ‘contempt’ amid a bitter charity row
Other prominent figures sidelined include Dame Sian Phillips – who won a BAFTA for her role in classic BBC drama series I, Claudius – and Likely Lads star James Bolam.
Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, Ms Margolyes – also known for her appearances in Blackadder – warned that the row could cause irreversible harm to the ABF.
The 81-year-old said: ‘It has already damaged the reputation of the charity, because we admire our stars and we revere them.
‘People like Penny Keith and Sian Phillips are good people and I think it is shocking that they were treated with such contempt.’
She said that the ABF has fallen into disarray after being left without legally appointed trustees, adding: ‘The Charity Commissioners, whose job it is to sort this out, seem incapable of doing so.
‘They are there to regulate and administer charities and make sure that they are being run properly. It is clear to me that this is a case of a charity that is not being run properly.’
The amount of money going to those in need fell following the row, according to a treasurer’s report. Meanwhile, an emergency hardship grant offered by the charity was unavailable for nine months due to a ‘rebrand’. ABF bosses insist this has now been fixed.
Ms Margolyes claimed that, in one case, a 94-year-old man who applied for support in March 2022 has still not had his application processed after it was apparently ‘lost’.
She added: ‘This isn’t about a quarrel, it’s about people in need.
‘And the money is there to help them, so why isn’t it being distributed? It doesn’t look good.’
Ms Margolyes, who unsuccessfully ran for a position on the council at the last election, has called on the Charity Commission to enforce free, fair and transparent elections to ensure that the charity is in safe hands.
The charity, whose patron was King Charles before he acceded to the throne, was founded in 1882 and has an endowment of more than £30million intended to help actors and stage crew experiencing hardship.
Past presidents include Sir John Gielgud and Lord Laurence Olivier, while its current members number Sir Kenneth Branagh, Dame Joanna Lumley and Jim Broadbent among others.
An ABF spokesman said: ‘The Commission has been positive about the progress the ABF trustees have made to reform the charity, there is no question of disarray.’
He denied beneficiaries have been let down during the row and added that ‘our own review found no evidence of an outstanding application’ as referred to by Ms Margolyes.
The Charity Commission insisted it had ‘worked extensively’ on trying to resolve the ‘bitter dispute that has not served the interests of the charity’s members or beneficiaries’.
A spokesman said those who received the most votes at the last AGM should be appointed although another vote should be held no later than December 2023 to give members ‘their democratic say on the charity’s leadership’.
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