08 February 2022

Mark Gatiss leads tributes to ‘iconic TV figure’ Bamber Gascoigne

08 February 2022

Mark Gatiss has led the tributes to “iconic TV figure” Bamber Gascoigne following his death at the age of 87.

The TV presenter and author was best known as the original quizmaster of University Challenge, a role he held from 1962 until 1987.

It was announced by the Grange Park Opera on behalf of his family that the TV star had died at his home in Richmond on Tuesday after a short illness.

Gascoigne, who presented many of his own documentary series, was portrayed on screen numerous times by different actors.

In 1984, he was famously played by Griff Rhys Jones in a sketch for the comedy series The Young Ones.

Sherlock star Gatiss also portrayed Gascoigne in the 2006 film Starter For 10, which follows a student winning a place on a University Challenge quiz team.

Gatiss paid tribute to the TV star by recalling the “great joy” he had playing him in the film.

The actor wrote on Twitter: “Very sorry to hear that Bamber Gascoigne has died.

“An ever-cheerful icon of our collective TV upbringing who made knowledge and intelligence seem fun. That’s how boffins should be, I always thought. It was a great joy to play him. RIP”

David Nicholls, who wrote the 2003 novel and screen adaptation of Starter For 10, said he was “starstruck” when he met the broadcaster.

He tweeted: “Very sad to see this. Bamber was a big part of my TV childhood and was very gracious about his fictional cameo in Starter For 10.

“He came to the book launch and left me quite starstruck.”

Victoria Coren Mitchell, the host of BBC quiz show Only Connect, also paid tribute, saying that she had “always hoped to meet” the TV presenter.

She added: “No quiz host has ever seemed more like they could answer all the questions themselves.

“With his gentle manner and great brain, what a wonderful teammate he would have been. RIP.”

Broadcaster and gardening writer Monty Don described the TV presenter as “iconic” and “charming”.

Don tweeted: “Sorry to hear the death of Bamber Gasgoine – for my generation an iconic TV figure.

“I sat next to him at dinner once – we were taught by the same wonderful man, Arthur Sale, at university – and he was charming.”

Actor and director Samuel West recalled how his parents starred in one of Gascoigne’s plays Big In Brazil in 1984 at The Old Vic theatre in London.

West shared a black and white photo of a couple on stage and added that “critics didn’t care” for the production but his parents had a “great time”.

Bamber Gascoigne alongside Stephen Fry and University Challenge contestants (John Stillwell/PA) (PA Wire)

In 2014 Gascoigne inherited 14th century Surrey estate West Horsley Place from his aunt, the Duchess of Roxburghe, where Grange Park Opera built an opera house in the woods.

Wasfi Kani, the founder of Grange Park Opera, said the TV star had been “like a father” to the venue.

Kani said: “Bamber’s exceptional philanthropy is as extraordinary as the story of how Grange Park Opera came to build the opera house in his garden.

“I’d read that he had inherited the estate of idyllic 14th-century West Horsley Place from his aunt, the Duchess of Roxburghe, and realised it was the perfect place for the first opera house of the 21st century.

“My trustees tentatively asked for a meeting, tiptoe-ing around the proposal. Bamber’s reaction was typically ebullient, ‘Of course you can’.”

She added: “Every step of the way, Bamber has been like a father to Grange Park Opera: advising, enthusing, encouraging.”

Kani noted that the opera house “is his” and that “everyone who crosses its threshold must thank this amazing man”.

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