Remembering two giants of late 20th century culture
This week we have lost two of the people who were highly influential in shaping the face of modern Britain - Sir Terence Conran and Dame Diana Rigg.
Designer, writer and retail giant Conran, who died aged 88, can be credited with truly changing the look and feel of post-war Britain. As founder of Habitat he exerted a profound influence on the domestic culture and taste of millions in the 1960s, 70s and beyond.
Conran, who later also founded the Design Museum, was intent on introducing what has been described as “a new European way to shop for contemporary homeware.”
His business also laid the foundation for a retail landscape that included Mothercare, Heals, Next, Richard Shops and others. He drew his inspiration from Bauhaus and Scandinavian design and literally realigned our view of furniture and homeware.
BC - Before Conran - the average family lived in a world that likely as not had dark, heavy hand me down furniture and had never heard of futons, duvets or paper lampshades or any number bright, attractive and innovative items of kitchenware. Lighting, which had been a bulb hanging from the ceiling or maybe an old standard lamp, was revolutionised.
The ‘continental’ style that Conran purveyed soon became readily and affordably available nit just in London but in town’s and cities throughout the country.
It is ironic perhaps that his death comes at this time of Brexit and the death of the High Street. He was a man of his time.
Meanwhile actress Diana Rigg, who has died aged 82, was another icon of modernity who originally found fame in the 1960s starring as secret agent Emma Peel in the groundbreaking TV series The Avengers.
The show was a game-changer, arriving at precisely the point when Britain seemingly turned from black and white to colour. The cat-suit clad, karate kicking Peel was, she would later admit, a one dimensional character but Rigg gave her depth.
The show also established her as a young actress to be reckoned with. She quickly complained when she discovered she was being paid less than the cameraman and she formed a great partnership with her far more experienced co-star Patrick McNee
Though she loved playing the part Rigg didn’t hesitate when she felt it was time to bid farewell to Emma Peel and move on. The Avengers provided a springboard to a wide ranging career that included everything from Shakespeare and the classics to Doctor Who and Game of Thrones.
Starring in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service she became the only Bond girl to actually get 007 to the altar. No danger of typecasting there though. The one and only Mrs Bond was assassinated as the couple left for their honeymoon.
In recent years Rigg has been enjoyed by a younger generation as Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones and, just the day before her death made her debut as the over-indulgent owner of portly Pekinese Tricki Woo in the new Channel 5 production of All Creatures Great and Small.