THE FIONA BENTLEY STORY
Fiona had unstoppable creative drive, talent and self-belief. Initially drawn to the Stage, she became the youngest Stage Director, working for the foremost impresario, Jack Hylton.
In 1956, Fiona and her husband to be, Norman Lonsdale, along with John Day and Richard Attenborough, founded World Record Club, the first mail order record club in the U.K. It was here that Fiona got her first taste of hands-on record production, commissioning and working with the foremost producers, conductors, musicians, arrangers, studio engineers and performers.
In 1959, Fiona formed a recording production company of her own, Fiona Bentley Productions. She had the original idea of producing musical adaptations of well-known children’s stories, commencing with the Beatrix Potter Tales narrated by Vivian Leigh. These became much loved staples for children growing up in the ‘60’s and beyond.
In 1960, Fiona formed an additional recording company, F.C.M. with Lord Morys Aberdare and Cyril Ornadel. After initially producing show albums, F.C.M. commissioned and produced 26 Shakespeare plays using leading actors, followed by the Old Testament and Psalms narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier.
In 1968 Fiona produced a final FBP project of poetry and music read by distinguished actors. Never released, these can be heard for the first time on our website.
Fiona had an ear and heart not just for the famous but countless would-be stars whom she enabled to realise their ambitions. We wish to honour her and all those artists involved, by the rebranding of Fiona Bentley Productions and to look to future possibilities to take her legacy forward.
QUOTES ABOUT FIONA BENTLEY
"I first met Fiona in the fifties and like most people who came in contact with her, I was swept off my feet by her overwhelming enthusiasm, drive and creative ability. She had that rare and enviable ability of being able to truly inspire people and her refusal ever to accept 'no' as an answer was both enviable and irritating. Once she had taken on a project it would occupy her day and night and she would give her whole self to it, often to the total exclusion of everything else, much, it must be admitted to the exasperation of others"
"Fiona was the most fascinating, clever, instinctive, generous, talented and kind lady I have ever had the privilege to call 'friend'. She was unique". Cyril Ornadel 'Reach for the Moon'
"She was a very clever, keen and discerning record producer who recognised talent seemingly by instinct, a very hard worker and she treated all of her artists and musicians with kindness and respect, well loved and respected by all who knew her in the music industry." Spike Heatley
"...she spent the rest of her life giving people chances". Anyone who was lucky enough to be a part of her many incredibly successful enterprises, benefitted from her far beyond their wildest dreams."
Cyril Ornadel 'Reach for the Moon'
"I think of your grandmother (Fiona) with love and appreciation. She was a spirit that danced into the world and created opportunities for those who had no other way to fulfil their dreams. Her wicked sense of humour and love of life... she was led by her ideals and enthusiasm. We never forget her wonderful spirit and positive influence on a world that sometimes forgets the injured and oppressed in their selfish search for material wealth and power."
From Sue Barstow to Fiona's granddaughter, Suzannah
THE FIONA BENTLEY PHILOSOPHY
"If someone wants anything badly enough, they will obtain it. All our failures spring from a division of mind. All our successes from singleness of purpose. We must love what we are doing. When we imagine with love, we create what we imagine and the creation has real and lasting value"
Fiona Bentley, in a note to Cyril Ornadel, 1950
In 1950, Jack Hylton the prominent impresario, pared Fiona Bentley and Cyril Ornadel as the youngest team in the theatre world. Fiona was Stage Director and Cyril Music Director at The Winter Gardens Theatre, Blackpool. Fiona wanted to write the book and lyrics of a musical show and so they often stayed behind in the orchestra pit after everyone had gone home, writing songs together. Fiona wrote the lyrics for 'Live Happily and Naturally' which summed up her philosophy for life. Years later Cyril wrote:
"l have used it as a guide ever since 'Do what's right in your heart', and passed it on to my children as a guideline in life. It showed her mind at 20 - and I think she lived by her ideas all through her life. What a most incredibly brilliant and exciting lady she was. I have never met anyone remotely like her since and I know I never will".
Cyril Ornadel letter to Norman Lonsdale 7th May 1985
LIVE HAPPILY, LIVE NATURALLY Lyrics by Fiona Bentley, music by Cyril Ornadel. 1950
Sold to George and Alfred Black in 1951 as the opening production number in the Norman Evans show 'Over the Garden Wall', at the Winter Gardens Pavilion Theatre, Blackpool.
Everybody needs a helping hand,
Needs a way of life they understand.
How to laugh,
How to sing,
How to make the most of everything.
Do what's right in your heart.
Though no rule applies to you it doesn't matter,
Don't let anybody tell you what to do.
Live the life of your dreams,
Waste no time on troublemakers and their chatter,
How can they know what's right for you?
Live ev'ry day,
Your special way,
At work or at play.
It's your life.
Live as your heart tell you to.
And do what's right for you.