A captivated audience was treated to a wonderful insight into British political life of the last five decades, by former senior civil servant Sir Hayden Phillips.

Described as 'perhaps the most influential civil servant of his era',  Sir Hayden spoke on the theme 'Stories from a Mandarin life in Government and other things'.   What followed was literally a roll call of the most important politicians and civil servants of the age, with anecdotes about former Home Secretaries, Roy Jenkins and Willie Whitelaw and Margaret Thatcher herself.

Sir Hayden also reflected upon the great events of the time, describing how he had been the civil servant in charge of the Iranian Embassy siege of 1981. Recalling preparations of how the SAS planned to storm the building, he told the audience that Heathrow jets had been ordered to fly low over London so that the SAS could drill the explosives into the walls of the embassy. His joke that the residents of Knightsbridge were none to amused by the noise pollution, was well received.

As chairman of the National Theatre from 2004-2010 he presided over a golden age of the British stage at a time when such modern classics as the History Boys  and War Horse  were produced. Not surprisingly, his connections in this field included Helena Bonham Carter and the Oscar winner, Eddie Redmayne“Not everyone in Wiltshire can claim to have had an Oscar winner to supper”  he told us!

Sir Hayden also had a message for sixth form pupils present, encouraging them to be creative and ambitious in their futures. An inspiring message from an inspiring man.  Like the greatest entertainers he left us wanting more!  We look forward to welcoming Sir Hayden back to Warminster soon.