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Joanna Lumley

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Joanna Lumley



1.73 m

Years active

Jamie Lumley

Joanna Lumley joannalumleylargejpg

Full Name
Joanna Lamond Lumley

1 May 1946 (age 77) (
Srinagar, Kashmir and Jammu, British India

Coronation StreetThe New AvengersSapphire & SteelAbsolutely Fabulous

Michael Claydon (1960s)

Stephen Barlow (m. 1986), Jeremy Lloyd (m. 1970–1970)

Absolutely Fabulous: Hospital, No Room for Secrets

Movies and TV shows
Absolutely Fabulous, The New Avengers, The Wolf of Wall Street, Sapphire & Steel, Jam & Jerusalem

Similar People
Jennifer Saunders, Stephen Barlow, Jamie Lumley, Jeremy Lloyd, Priscilla Presley


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Joanna Lamond Lumley, OBE, FRGS (born 1 May 1946) is an English actress, former model, author and activist. She won two BAFTA TV Awards for her role as Patsy Stone in the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous (1992–2012), and was nominated for the 2011 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for the Broadway revival of La Bête. In 2013, she received the Special Recognition Award at the National Television Awards and in 2017, she was honoured with the BAFTA Fellowship award.


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Lumley's other television credits include The New Avengers (1976–77), Sapphire & Steel (1979–82), Sensitive Skin (2005–07), and Jam & Jerusalem (2006–08). Her film appearances include On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), Trail of the Pink Panther (1982), James and the Giant Peach (1996), Ella Enchanted (2004), Corpse Bride (2005), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016).

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Lumley is an advocate and human rights activist for Survival International and the Gurkha Justice Campaign. She supports charities and animal welfare groups such as Compassion in World Farming and Vegetarians' International Voice for Animals. She is also patron of the Farm Animal Sanctuary.

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Joanna lumley tribute

Early life

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Joanna Lamond Lumley was born on 1 May 1946 in Srinagar, Kashmir and Jammu, to English parents, Thyra Beatrice Rose (née Weir) and Major James Rutherford Lumley, who served in the 6th Gurkha Rifles, a regiment of the British Indian Army. They married in 1941.

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Lumley was brought up in Kent, England, where she attended Mickledene School in Rolvenden as a boarder. The family spent time in Hong Kong and Malaya (now Malaysia). Lumley was educated at The Convent of Our Lady School in St Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex, and afterwards attended the Lucie Clayton Finishing School, after being turned down by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at the age of 16.


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Lumley spent three years as a photographic model, notably for Brian Duffy, who photographed her with her son. She also worked as a house model for Jean Muir. Over forty years later, she participated in another photoshoot – again with her son – for Duffy as part of a retrospective of the photographer's work.

Lumley appeared in an early episode of the Bruce Forsyth Show in 1966. She appeared in a British television advertisement for Nimble bread first screened in 1969.

Lumley did not receive any formal training at drama school. Her acting career began in 1969 with a small, uncredited role in the film Some Girls Do, and as a Bond girl in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, in which she had two lines as a British girl among the villainous Ernst Stavro Blofeld's "Angels of Death". Lumley went on to have a brief but memorable role as Elaine Perkins in Coronation Street, in which her character turned down Ken Barlow's offer of marriage. In 1973, she made another big screen appearance as Jessica Van Helsing in The Satanic Rites of Dracula, the last Hammer Dracula film to star Christopher Lee.

She has worked with Tim Burton on two film projects, in James and the Giant Peach (1996) and Corpse Bride (2005). She has also appeared alongside Hugh Laurie in the British romantic comedy Maybe Baby (2000) and alongside Anne Hathaway in Ella Enchanted (2004). She has appeared twice as Mrs. Dolly Bantry in Agatha Christie's Marple, in the episodes; 'The Body in the Library' (2004) & 'The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side' (2009). In 2010, she appeared in a 4-episode guest arc on the BBC drama, Mistresses as Vivienne Roden. In 2013, she appeared in the Martin Scorsese crime drama, The Wolf of Wall Street.

Major roles

Throughout her career, she has specialised in playing upper class parts, and her distinctive voice has reinforced this. Lumley's first major role was as Purdey in The New Avengers, a revival of the secret agent series The Avengers. Although critical reaction to the series was lukewarm, the casting of Lumley was seen as inspired and following the tradition of Avengers actresses Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg and Linda Thorson.

In 1979 she appeared in another series which acquired a cult following, the science-fiction drama Sapphire & Steel, with David McCallum. Conceived as ITV's answer to Doctor Who, Lumley played a mysterious elemental being called "Sapphire" who, with her collaborator, known as "Steel," dealt with breaches in the fabric of time. In 1986, television producer Sydney Newman suggested Lumley for the role of the Doctor in Doctor Who, but he was dismissed. Over a decade later Lumley's career was boosted by her portrayal of the louche, selfish and frequently drunk fashion director Patsy Stone, companion to Jennifer Saunders's Edina Monsoon in the BBC comedy television series Absolutely Fabulous, nicknamed "AbFab" (1992–1996), (2001–2004), and (2011–2012). Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie was released in 2016. In 1994 and 1995, Lumley starred alongside Nadine Garner and John Bowe in the British television show Class Act; her role was that of Kate Swift, an upper-class lady who had fallen on hard times.

Lumley's other work has included appearances in Lovejoy as widow Victoria Cavero, In the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon (1996), a film about a journey made by her grandparents in Bhutan, A Rather English Marriage (nominated for a BAFTA for Best Actress 1999) and Dr Willoughby (1999). In 1995, she provided the voice of Annie the rag doll in the animated series The Forgotten Toys. In 1999, she also provided the voice for Sims the chicken in the BAFTA award-winning animated series The Foxbusters. In 2000, she co-produced a new drama series, The Cazalets. She appeared in a TV series on Sarawak, where she had spent time in her childhood. She has demonstrated her ability to go beyond stereotypical images, most notably in the monologue series of playlets titled Up in Town (2002), written by Hugo Blick, and focusing on a society hostess's realisation that her star is fading.

Lumley starred as the elderly Delilah Stagg in the 2006 sitcom Jam & Jerusalem with her former AbFab cast-mate Jennifer Saunders, Saunders's long-time comedy partner Dawn French, and Sue Johnston. In July 2007, she starred in the second series of the drama Sensitive Skin, where she acted out the main character Davina Jackson. The BBC said that this would be the final series of the dark comedy.

She starred in David Hirson's La Bête – Comedy Theatre, London, 26 June – 28 August 2010 with David Hyde Pierce and Mark Rylance, directed by Matthew Warchus. She also starred in La Bête at the Music Box Theatre, Broadway, New York which opened on 14 October 2010. She was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her performance.

Media work

As the possessor of one of the most recognised voices in the UK, Lumley has gained prominence as a voice-over artist. Users of AOL in the United Kingdom are familiar with Joanna Lumley's voice. She recorded the greetings "Welcome to AOL" and "You have email" and "Goodbye" for that company.

Hers was the voice behind the iconic Simple skincare commercial in which robotic arms sprayed and perfumed a pristine white lily. The commercial entitled 'Gilding the Lily' was created by art director Colin Underhay and copywriter Alex Pearl.

And from 2005 to 2006 she appeared in adverts for insurance brokers Privilege.

Lumley has also appeared on the last run of ITV's Parkinson as a guest, on 27 October 2007, discussing the subject of young girls across the UK and how they need to behave better if they hope to be successful. She was asked to write the introduction to a re-edition in November 2007 of the book called The Magic Key To Charm written by the pioneering female journalist Eileen Ascroft. This is a book of tips to women, first written by Ascroft in 1938 about how to be glamorous. "I thought it was absolutely enchanting, it's how young women were told how to behave in the old days and I think it might be just coming back for a bit of a revival," she explained in the interview.

"Because, I have to say I adore our young ones and I think we have got some of the prettiest and loveliest girls in the world but I think sometimes the behaviour gets a bit bad and I think the girls let themselves down. They are so pretty and so lovely but they should behave better, I think, then they will be more successful."

In 1999 she appeared in the Comic Relief Doctor Who parody The Curse of Fatal Death as the final incarnation of the Doctor. She also appeared with Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French and Sienna Miller in the French and Saunders pastiche of Mamma Mia for Comic Relief 2009 in which she played the role of Tanya (named Patsy in the spoof).

In 2004 Lumley appeared as the "Woman with the Sydney Opera House Head" in Dirk Maggs's long-awaited radio adaptation of Life, The Universe, And Everything, the third book of the Douglas Adams series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

In 2005 she published her second volume of autobiography, No Room for Secrets; this was serialised by The Times, for which she was once a regular contributor. (She had written and published a previous memoir, Stare Back and Smile: Memoirs, in 1989; six years later, in 2011, she would write and publish a third volume, which she would title Absolutely.) She was chosen as the godmother of Princess Cruises's "Sea Princess," and she christened the ship on its maiden voyage in 2005.

In September 2008, the BBC aired Joanna Lumley in the Land of the Northern Lights, a documentary about her search to see the Northern Lights in northern Norway.

In May 2009 she supported the Green Party during the 2009 European Elections campaign. For Lumley, the work of Green MEPs in the European Parliament in pursuing human rights and animal rights made the Green Party "the obvious choice" and urged UK voters "to cast a positive vote for a better future by voting Green in the European Elections." Lumley also appeared in literature to support changing the British electoral system from first-past-the-post to alternative vote for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons in the Alternative Vote referendum in 2011.

In 2009 she portrayed a rock star, believed to be dead for 35 years, but more predominantly, her twin, in the "Counter Culture Blues" episode of the British television mystery series Lewis; this was known in the U.S. as Inspector Lewis.

In 2010 she donated £1,000 to Caroline Lucas's campaign to become the first Green MP during the 2010 General Election campaign.

In 2011, Lumley appeared in Uptown Downstairs Abbey, the Comic Relief parody of the critically acclaimed historical television dramas Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs. Playing herself and the character of Mrs. Danvers, she starred alongside others including Jennifer Saunders, Kim Cattrall, Victoria Wood, Harry Enfield, Patrick Barlow, Dale Winton, Olivia Colman and Tim Vine.

In recent years, Lumley has worked extensively with ITV, and in 2010 Lumley was executive producer and presenter of Joanna Lumley's Nile, where she journeyed up the River Nile from sea to source in Rwanda, for ITV. This was broadcast in four parts on ITV beginning on 12 April 2010, and repeated in June 2013.

Lumley travelled again for ITV in 2011, this time visiting Greece for a four-part series titled Joanna Lumley’s Greek Odyssey. The series aired on ITV beginning on 13 October. Once again, in 2012, Lumley travelled for ITV, now in search of Noah's Ark. The trip, that encompassed 3 continents and also involved adventurously venturing into Iran, will air in late 2012 as a single 90-minute documentary titled Joanna Lumley’s Ark.

In March 2014 she appeared in a BBC One hour-long documentary featuring American musician The programme was called Joanna Lumley Meets In December 2014, she presented Bette Midler: One Night Only, a one-off ITV special.

In 2015 she presented a three-part factual series for ITV called Joanna Lumley's Trans-Siberian Adventure. The series saw Lumley travel 6400 miles from Hong Kong to Moscow, along the Trans-Siberian Railway.

In August 2015, Lumley backed children's fairytales app "GivingTales" in aid of UNICEF together with other celebrities including Roger Moore, Stephen Fry, Ewan McGregor, Joan Collins, Michael Caine, and Paul McKenna.

In September 2016, she presented Joanna Lumley's Japan, a three-part documentary series for ITV and in July 2017, she presented Joanna Lumley's India for ITV.


Lumley is best known for her support for Gurkhas, the exiled Tibetan people and government, the Kondha indigenous people of India and the Prospect Burma charity, which offers grants to Burmese students, for whom she broadcast a BBC Radio 4 charity appeal in 2001. Her father was a Gurkha officer who fought in World War II.

Gurkha Justice Campaign

In 2008, Lumley became the public face of a campaign to provide all Nepalese origin Gurkha veterans who served in the British Army before 1997 the right to settle in Britain. Those serving after 1997 had already been granted permission, but the UK Government has not extended the offer to all of the Gurkhas, who are natives of Nepal. On 20 November 2008, Lumley led a large all-party group including Gurkhas starting from Parliament Square to 10 Downing Street with a petition signed by 250,000 people. She supports the Gurkha Justice Campaign.

On 24 April 2009, she stated that she was "ashamed" of the UK administration's decision to affix five criteria to the Gurkhas' right to settle in the UK. With the support of both Opposition parties and Labour rebel MPs on 29 April 2009, a Liberal Democrat motion that all Gurkhas be offered an equal right of residence was passed, allowing Gurkhas who served before 1997 residence in the UK and access to housing, social security and healthcare. Following the Government defeat, the Minister for Immigration Phil Woolas announced that a further review would be completed by the middle of July.

On 5 May 2009, Lumley said that she had received private assurances of support from "a senior member of the Royal Family", and attended a meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at 10 Downing Street the following day. Afterwards, she described the meeting as "extremely positive", and praised Mr Brown, saying, "I trust him. I rely on him. And I know that he has now taken this matter into his own hands and so today is a very good day."

However, on the day following the meeting with Brown, five Gurkha veterans who had applied for residency in the United Kingdom received letters telling them that their appeals had been rejected – many saw this as a betrayal, despite the fact that for the letters to have been received the day after the meeting they might have been sent before it (and certainly after the 29 April Commons vote). Lumley confronted Phil Woolas at the BBC Westminster studios about the issue and, after pursuing him around the studio, the pair held an impromptu press conference in which Woolas agreed to accept Gurkha Justice Campaign input in developing new guidelines by July while giving sympathetic treatment to Gurkhas not meeting the then current immigration guidelines before the development of new guidelines.

Following a Commons Home Affairs Committee meeting in which talks were held between campaigners, the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office on 19 May, Gordon Brown announced to the House of Commons on 20 May that the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith would make a statement on the issue the following day. Ms Smith subsequently announced that all Gurkha veterans who had served four years or more in the British Army before 1997 would be allowed to settle in Britain.

As a result of her campaigning skills, there were calls for Joanna Lumley to stand as a Member of Parliament at the forthcoming general election. However, she has dismissed the suggestion. During an appearance on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross on 29 May, she reiterated that she had no desire to run for election to the House of Commons.

In July 2009, Lumley went on a visit to Nepal. Upon her arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport, she was greeted by crowds of Gurkha supporters. Lumley said in a statement, "I feel so humbled by the fact I'm going to meet so many ex-Gurkhas and their families, and see where they are and how they live." While there, Lumley was hailed 'Daughter of Nepal' by the crowds of fans at the airport.

Work for Survival International

Lumley has long been a supporter of Survival International and the cause of indigenous rights, and narrated Survival's documentary, Mine: story of a sacred mountain. The film tells the story of the remote Dongria Kondha tribe in India and their battle to stop a vast bauxite mine from destroying their land and way of life. In defence of the Dongria, she has said,

"It greatly disturbs me that a British company will be responsible for the destruction of these wonderful people. I urge the public to support the Dongria, who simply want to be allowed to live in peace. Unlike so many of India's rural poor, the Dongria actually live very well in the Niyamgiri hills, and it's a terrible irony that what Vedanta is proposing to do in the name of 'development' will actually destroy this completely self-sufficient people."

Lumley also contributed her writing for the book We Are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples, released in October 2009 with profits going in support of Survival. A collection of photographs, statements from tribal people and essays from international authors, the book explores the richness of the cultures of indigenous peoples around the world and the risks to their existence. In her essay for the book, Lumley speaks of the Dongria way of life and the threats they face in the name of corporate interests, and calls for action to stop such decisions.

Patron of Population Matters

In May 2016, Joanna became a patron of Population Matters, an organisation campaigning for the achievement of a sustainable global population size.

Patron of Tree Aid

Lumley has been a patron of the UK charity Tree Aid, since 1993. Tree Aid is a charity which enables communities in Africa's drylands to fight poverty and become self-reliant, while improving the environment.

Patron of PENHA

Joanna Lumley is also a patron of the pastoral and Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa, or PENHA.. PENHA is an international NGO, founded in 1989 and based on the commitment of professionals and development workers from the Horn of Africa to address issues of pastoral concerns from a regional prospective. Lumley's commitment to support the pastoral communities of the Horn of Africa is of paramount importance to PENHA.

Patron of Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust

Lumley is patron of the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust. Moat Brae was the favourite place for author J.M. Barrie to play as a child and the house and gardens are said to have inspired Barrie to create Peter Pan. The trust is undertaking a £4 million fundraising project to renovate the Georgian house and gardens to operate as an educational and cultural centre for local schools and JM Barrie enthusiasts and scholars.

Patron of Trust in Children

Joanna Lumley is patron of the UK charity Trust in Children which aims to help children from poor backgrounds to access education and opportunities for non-academic development. The charity (Charity Commission registered number 236625) had income of £2,318 in its financial year ending 5 April 2015, a turnover low enough for it not to have to file any accounts.

Patron of The Friends of Kadzinuni

Joanna Lumley has been patron of The Friends of Kadzinuni since it was established in 2003, a small charity based in Keyworth, Nottinghamshire, UK which is enabling the village of Kadzinuni, (40 kilometres (25 mi) north of Mombasa, near Kilifi) to be transformed into a self-sufficient wealth creating community by focussing on facilitating community-led developments for Healthcare, Education, and Agriculture.

Research fellowship

In 1996, the Joanna Lumley Research Fellowship was established at Green College, University of Oxford. Sponsored by Friends Provident financial group, it was for a young researcher on "major environmental or wildlife issues, with particular reference to Africa". The candidates were interviewed by Lumley.


In February 2013, she was assessed as one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4.

Personal life

Lumley's son, James, was born in 1967. James Lumley's father is the photographer Michael Claydon. The first of her two marriages was to writer Jeremy Lloyd. In 1986, she married the conductor Stephen Barlow; they live in London. They also own a house near the village of Penpont, Dumfries and Galloway in South West Scotland. Lumley's son, Jamie, has two daughters, Alice and Emily.

Lumley was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1995 New Year Honours. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (FRGS). She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters (Hon. D.Litt.) by the University of Kent in July 1994. In 2002, she was awarded an honorary degree from Oxford Brookes University. In 2006, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters (Hon. D.Litt.) from the University of St. Andrews. and in July 2008, she was also awarded an honorary Doctor of the University (Hon DUniv) from Queen's University Belfast.

Alongside her work for the Gurkhas, Lumley is a supporter of many charities, including Suffolk Family Carers, Child Rescue Nepal and Kids for Kids. She has been a vegetarian for forty years, and a keen supporter of animal rights charities, including CIWF and Viva!. She has donated signed books for the literacy and international development charity Book Aid International. She is patron of the Born Free Foundation and passionate about the Free Tibet campaign.

Other charities supported include Mind, ActionAid, SANE, Kidasha (formerly CWS) which works on behalf of children in Nepal, and the Spike Milligan statue memorial fund.

From 2012 to 2016, Lumley supported the now-defunct proposals for a pedestrian "Garden Bridge" across the Thames in London, in collaboration with the designer Thomas Heatherwick and former Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

Lumley was one of several celebrities who endorsed the parliamentary candidacy of the Green Party's Caroline Lucas at the 2015 general election.


  • Don't Just Lie There Say Something – Garrick Theatre, 1971
  • Private Lives – British tour, 1982
  • Noel & Gertie – King's Head, Islington, 1983
  • Hedda Gabler – Dundee Rep, 1984
  • Blithe Spirit – Vaudeville Theatre, 1986
  • An Ideal Husband – Chichester Festival, 1987
  • The Revengers' Comedies – Strand Theatre, 1991
  • Who Shall I Be Tomorrow? – Greenwich Theatre, 1992
  • The Letter – Lyric Hammersmith, 1995
  • Jack and the Beanstalk – Royal Albert Hall, 1996
  • The Cherry Orchard – Sheffield Crucible, 2007
  • La Bête – Comedy Theatre and Music Box Theater, New York, 2010
  • The Lion in Winter – Theatre Royal, Haymarket, 2011
  • As author

  • Peacocks and Commas: Best of the "Spectator" Competitions (1983) – Editor
  • Stare Back and Smile: Memoirs (1989) – Memoir
  • Forces Sweethearts (1993) – Editor
  • Girl Friday (1994)
  • In the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon (1997)
  • No Room for Secrets (2005) – Memoir
  • Absolutely (2011) – Memoir
  • She has also narrated a number of audiobooks and provided forewords for works by other authors.

    As subject

  • Joanna Lumley – The biography by Tim Ewbank and Stafford Hildred; an unauthorised biography.
  • DVD

  • Joanna Lumley's Nile (2010).
  • Joanna Lumley's Trans-Siberian Adventure (2015).
  • Joanna Lumley's Japan (2016).
  • References

    Joanna Lumley Wikipedia