Shirley Williams talks about the new film based on the life of her mother, Vera Brittain

Baroness Shirley Williams has been speaking to the Telegraph on the occasion of the release of a film based on her mother, Vera Brittain’s memoir, Testament of Youth:

Baroness Williams has praised her mother Vera Brittain’s lifelong efforts as a pacifist, saying her only regret is that “she wasn’t here when we fought against the Iraq war.”

The 84-year-old Lib Dem grandee spoke about her mother at the premiere of the film adaptation of Brittain’s First World War memoir, Testament of Youth.

She said of the writer, feminist and campaigner who died in 1970: “She never gave up. She was as much against the Vietnam War as she was against the First World War.”

Baroness Williams added that she thought her mother would be “thrilled” with the film, which is directed by James Kent and follows Brittain (played by 26-year-old Swedish actress Alicia Vikander) as she successfully applies to Oxford university before going to work as a nurse in Etaples in France.

“She didn’t see herself becoming one of the great authors of the 20th century”, Baroness Williams said, “let alone the only woman to be a chronicler of the First World War.”

“I think she would be so thrilled, not only that large numbers of the public would have come and seen the film but that it had reached a whole new generation.”

You can read the full article here.

The photo, above right, shows Vera Brittain leaving Euston Station on the Carinthia boat train, en route to join her husband George Catlin in Montreal, 20th November 1956.

Here is one of the trailers for the film, Testament of Youth, which is in cinemas from January 16th:

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • David Faggiani 7th Jan '15 - 12:08pm

    Here’s the audio recording of a talk Baroness Williams did at the LSE in December, on the same subject:

  • Jayne Mansfield 7th Jan '15 - 12:36pm

    Testament of Youth was a book that helped me formulate my own beliefs and values.

    I still to this day, can’t think of Shirley Williams, admirable woman that she is, with her own list of achievements, without thinking of her first and foremost as Vera Britain’s daughter.

  • Helen Tedcastle 7th Jan '15 - 12:58pm

    Like Jayne Mansfield, Testament of Youth was a very important book for me. It helped me in the formation of my own political beliefs. I read it at the time when the SDP was at its height, so Shirley Williams was a key figure who engaged my interest.

    I hope the film will engage a new generation of young people particularly women in radical politics, particularly in fighting economic injustice and inequality, raising issues of peace and conflict and reinforcing the importance of the European Union as a key guarantor of peace in Europe.

  • Lke Jayne and Helen I find it impossible to think of the daughter without the mother. But Shirley Willams had a most unusual childhood as she describes in her autobiography. Her teenage years were even more extraordinary. How many of us have competed with a Hollywood legend for a film part? Her father is also an interesting character in Shirley’s story but he will always been Shirley’s father or Vera’s husband, nobody really remembers him in his own right. Shirley also points to the very real influence on her growing up of the family’s servants – who of course are even less remembered in their own right than her dad.

    Climbing the Bookshelves: The Autobiography. by Shirley Williams 432pp, Virago, £20
    about which Polly Toynbee wrote —
    Few politicians are loved or even liked, and even fewer of those are women, who are subjected to quite disproportionate venom. Shirley Williams was and is an exception. The warmth of her mellifluous voice can unfreeze the frostiest public meeting. Rumpled, unbrushed and late, she brings intensity and informality into any room. In TV studios or on conference platforms, she speaks human, which is a surprisingly rare political talent. ……Likability, affability, apparent normality, sounding as if they mean what they say – this is political gold dust.

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