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Video: Hollywood star Stewart beams into Clare's village

Actor Patrick Stewart – best known as Captain John Luc Picard in the Star Trek: The Next Generation – was in Helpston, near Peterborough, yesterday to open a new weather centre at the John Clare Cottage, where the famous poet was born.

Actor Patrick Stewart – best known as Captain John Luc Picard in the Star Trek: The Next Generation – was in Helpston, near Peterborough, yesterday to open a new weather centre at the John Clare Cottage, where the famous poet was born.Mr Stewart took the first readings from the state of the art weather centre, before touring the village and talking to school children about the "peasant poet's" work.

The weather station will help visiting children learn about the weather and its links to nature – a key topic in Clare's poetry.

Mr Stewart's first ever film appearance was in a documentary about John Clare.

Mr Stewart said: "Before I worked on the John Clare film, I did not know much about him or his work.

"When I was at school we did not read John Clare, but I am very pleased that his work is available now.

"He is one of the best writers Britain has produced and it is important that people are inspired by his work and his story."

The cottage has now been turned into an "out of classroom" educational centre.

Mr Stewart said: "The work that this centre has done has been amazing. I have heard that things learnt out of the classroom tend to stick with children more than what is learnt in the classroom."

Chairman of the John Clare Trust Barry Sheerman arranged the visit. He is MP for Huddersfield, where Mr Stewart is chancellor of the university.

He said: "Patrick is an old friend of mine and he has been very helpful in raising the money needed for this centre.

"He is a great enthusiast of John Clare and we are delighted he could come to open the centre."

Daniel Haggar (15), from The Priory School in Spalding, helped Mr Stewart open the new weather centre. He said: "I was very excited to meet him. I am a big Star Trek fan and like the X-Men films. He is a bit of a hero of mine."

Patrick Stewart

Patrick Stewart starred as Captain Jean Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation from 1987 to 1994 and in four films between 1994 and 2002.

The character became known for the catchphrase: "Make it so".

He is a noted Shakesperean actor and has featured in more 60 Royal Shakespeare Company productions.

He was made an OBE in the 2001 New Years Honours List.

He is the Chancellor and Professor Of Performing Arts of the University of Huddersfield.

Patrick's son, Daniel, is also an actor and appeared alongside his father in the 1993 movie Death Train and the 1992 Star Trek episode The Inner Light.

John Clare

The son of a farm labourer, John Clare was born at Helpston, near Peterborough, in 1793. He died in 1864, aged 71.

During his life he was a gardener at Burghley House, enlisted in the military and worked as a lime burner.

In 1841, Clare was committed to the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum (known since as St Andrew's Hospital). He wrote his most famous poem, I Am, there.

His remains were returned to Helpston for burial in St Botolph's churchyard. Today, children at the John Clare School parade through the village and place their "midsummer cushions" around Clare's gravestone, on his birthday, in honour of their most famous resident.

 

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