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I dream of Genie

April 6, 2020

After a mostly miserable March, April got off to a pretty good start when a friend in the UK shared this with me on Facebook. Yes! The BBC is going to make another series of Life on Mars. This news caused considerable excitement amongst many of my Facebook friends. As I commented to one of them; if there’s anything that could help lighten the pandemic load it’s a dose of Gene Hunt. Unfortunately the show isn’t even in production yet, so it’s going to be a long wait, but simply knowing it’s coming has certainly lightened my mood.

Thinking about this led me to thinking about something that happened in the spring of 2008 when I was the acting director of Free Tibet. As the world watched the Chinese military brutally squashing an uprising by the citizens of Tibet, I was contacted by the photographer Clive Arrowsmith who wanted to volunteer his time to do a photo shoot for us.

We were in the middle of developing a T for Tibet campaign – a simple hand signal that athletes (or anyone else) involved in the upcoming Beijing Olympics could use to show support for the Tibetan people, so Clive’s offer was greatly appreciated. We contacted various celebrities, inviting them to take part.

Joanna Lumley’s acceptance was no surprise. She’s been an outspoken champion of Tibetans for many years. Jeremy Irons? Great. David Threlfell and Sean Gilder from Shameless? Lovely. A wide selection of second division (but nonetheless welcome) actors, comedians, musicians. Good.

Then one day I got a phone call from an agent. When it was over, I said to the office in general, “Oh, my god, we’ve got the Gene Genie!” Surprisingly (or perhaps not, given that Ashes to Ashes was airing at the time), no one asked me if I meant David Bowie. My press officer was understandably pleased.

Come the day of the shoot, I headed out with three other members of staff. One of the highlights of the day was Clive offering to photograph each of us between the official portraits.

Anne T

Janet Fereday T

Style: "Neutral"

Salma Mohamed T

This, of course, was the day’s money shot.

Phil T

Phil Glenister, aka Gene Hunt.

It came as no surprise to me that, when the photos were released, this one got the pick up, along with this Huntish quote “Tibet has more bones to pick with China than a dog that’s dug up a dinosaur. My message to the British Government is, ‘Get off your backside and do something to free Tibet’.” (Yes, I wrote it for his approval.)

After the official session was completed I did something I did not do with any of the other subjects. Hoping I wasn’t blushing, I asked if we could get a photo of him with the director of Free Tibet.


For the record, Phil Glenister is a lovely man, nothing at all like Gene Hunt. Still.

When I told the (female) head of the International Tibet Network that Phil had agreed to be part of the T for Tibet campaign, she squealed. Yes, squealed. When I further admitted that I might just be more excited about this than meeting the Dalai Lama, she said, “No kidding.” I mean the Dalai Lama’s pretty sexy, but…

Come back, Gene Hunt. We need you.



From → Blog, Free Tibet

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