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Saturday, October 26, 2019

Diana Isabel Jervis-Read Remembers Beauford

My dear friend, Almeta Speaks, introduced me to Diana Isabel Jervis-Read a few days ago, after Diana casually mentioned to Almeta that she knew Beauford during his Paris years. I learned that Diana is a Fellow of Great Britain's Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce and that she met Beauford while working on a film project with James Baldwin. I immediately took the opportunity to ask Diana to grant me an interview about Beauford and she graciously agreed.

Diana Isabel Jervis-Read
Image courtesy of Diana Isabel Jervis-Read

Les Amis: When did you first meet Beauford?

DIJ-R: 1969 in Paris with James Baldwin and Bernard Hassell.

Les Amis: What were the circumstances?

DIJ-R: Jimmy was writing the dialogue for a family film I was involved with called YAO OF THE JUNGLE, which Quincy Jones and Ray Brown wrote the music for. I worked with the editor to make a rough cut and then Jimmy and I worked on this together in a cutting room off the Champs Elysées for very many weeks.

We spent all our time together and Beauford was with us on most evenings for very many weeks/months.

Les Amis:
What was your first impression of Beauford and how did this change over time (if it did at all)?

DIJ-R: I adored smiley warm cuddly Beauford from the very first meeting. I found him extremely grandfatherly - and fun to talk to about many things and nothing. There was an inner peace in him for me. He was so sparkly and twinkly.

Les Amis: James Baldwin referred to Beauford as a cross between Brer Rabbit and St. Francis of Assisi. Would you describe him this way?

DIJ-R: Oh yes! James has the last word here - being a master of words which I am not!

Les Amis: Did Beauford have any artistic influence on you?

I am not an artist but he opened my eyes to some artists I did not know, being in my early twenties.

Les Amis:
What is your fondest memory of Beauford?

DIJ-R: Roaring around Paris in my friend Alain’s Mini with Jimmy in the front wrapped in a brightly coloured shawl his sister had brought from the Ivory Coast and Beauford and me sandwiched in the back.

Beauford, slightly dreamy and smiling benignly, somewhat knowingly about life.

And then meeting up with Bernard later for dinner at Fouquet’s or similar places.

Fouquet's signage - 1969
Fair use claim

Much merriment, eating and drinking - being a teetotaler at the time I was able to take everything in.

One night we were stopped by the gendarmes who were somewhat surprised to find a young, long-haired, chic hippy driving this assorted group - remembering that these were the list 1968 days when the street were lined with those big black police vans. After a few questions I suspect they thought we were altogether too much for them to cope with and they let us go - we were lucky. So many bad things happened then.

Les Amis:
Are there any other thoughts that you'd like to share?

DIJ-R: I was honoured to have known, been friends with, worked with, and had fun with beloved Beauford, and James and Bernard.

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