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Dame Diana Rigg on Game of Thrones and giving back this Christmas

The Game of Thrones actress partners with Macmillan to celebrate Christmas with a charity fundraiser

Following her recent appearances as Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones and the formidable Duchess of Buccleuch in Victoria, Dame Diana Rigg's next moment in the spotlight will see her share the stage with the likes of Martin Clunes, Rachel Stirling and Guy Garvey as she joins them to host a festive charity fundraiser in aid of Macmillan.

I’ve been working with Macmillan for four years; I love carol concerts, and why wouldn’t you support Macmillan? They’re so wonderfully supportive to people suffering this terrible disease and they’re in constant need of funds. Carol concerts are a wonderful way of fundraising. 

There’s so much need everywhere, the Macmillan event is the perfect way to give back. Just plug in to your beliefs and faith at this time of year – people tend only to do it at Christmas and Easter don’t they? I’m not criticising them, I’m much the same, and I love Christmas. It’s a wonderfully communal thing, all of you bellowing out Come All Ye Faithful.

At this year’s event I’ll be reading from a book I found years ago, by a writer called Gervase Phinn who was the North Yorkshire schools inspector. It’s about his experience as he visits the various school nativity plays in the area and it’s so sweet and funny. 

Up until quite recently I volunteered at a school in north London, but I’ve been working so hard that I really can’t do it any more. But I loved it. I’m very keen on our language; I think we have a wonderful language. I really want the children to be articulate and to be able to express themselves, because that gives them power.

I’m President of the Earl’s Court Youth Club on the Ifield Road as well, so I do a lot of work with the young adolescents. I’m on the committee looking after them; there’s a great guy there who runs it called Abdi and he does a wonderful job, because it serves a lot of the kids who come over from less privileged areas in Kensington.

I live just off the Gloucester Road. It’s great; the shops are terrific and there are some very good restaurants. I love a parade of shops, and there’s a hardware shop, there’s a chemist, there’s a wonderful grocery, restaurants, a hairdresser – it localises everything, so I just plod along the street and turn left and there it all is. And I feel very, very lucky, because I really enjoy it.

My earliest London memory is when I came to RADA. I was 17 and my mother put me into a lodging house in Queensbury Place in Kensington, and all those years ago London on a Sunday was dismal. I used to lose myself in the V&A Museum because it was warm, and it was the only place that was open. London has changed amazingly, and for the better.

This year I’m spending Christmas with my brother and sister-in-law at a hotel in Bath. I decided that Christmas can be quite fraught with family squabbles and goodness knows what else, and I thought we’re both getting on, my brother and I, so why don’t we just rise above it, go to a beautiful hotel and have somebody cook our Christmas dinner for us? 

I’ve said to everybody I don’t want anything for Christmas this year. I’m nearly 80, and I have everything that I want. Honestly there’s nothing material that I long for, just that my family are well, safe and happy.

My highlight of 2017 so far has been the fact that I’ve never stopped working. It’s absolutely brilliant; I’m so grateful. I will miss playing Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones, because it was a great part, but all good things come to an end sooner or later, and I think it was about time that the old bag croaked. I’m doing another sort of waspish lady [the Duchess of Buccleuch] in Victoria so I’m carrying on with that particular side of the character in a way. 

In the new year I’m going over to New York. They're doing a revival of My Fair Lady on Broadway, and I’m playing Mrs Higgins – how lucky is that? 

Diana Rigg will be reading at Macmillan Cancer Support’s 30th annual Guards Chapel Christmas Carol Concert on 7 December. For tickets or information, call 020 7840 4800 or visit www.macmillan.org.uk/guardschapel