Pupils cheer up Dame Judi

They weren't even born when Dame Judi Dench won her Oscar for Shakespeare in Love in 1998. In fact, until she helped to save their local theatre, many of the children at Meadow Primary School in Lowestoft had no idea who she was.

They weren't even born when Dame Judi Dench won her Oscar for Shakespeare in Love in 1998.

In fact, until she helped to save their local theatre, many of the children at Meadow Primary School in Lowestoft had no idea who she was.

But ever since the veteran actress intervened in the battle to save the Seagull Theatre by agreeing to become the venue's new patron, she has become something of a local hero.

So when pupils heard she would miss this year's Oscars ceremony, even though she was nominated, because she was recovering from a knee operation, they decided to send her a little something to cheer her up.

Over the last week, Year 4 pupils Grace White, Ashleigh Sharman, Eleanor Garbutt and Joanna Dack have given up their lunch hours to make Dame Judi a special get-well card from Lowestoft.

The four eight-year-olds have drawn the actress pictures of the town, complete with the obligatory seagulls and even, in one picture, a Lowestoft Air Show plane spelling out her name.

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Last night, on hearing about the pupils' efforts, the 72-year-old actress said: “What an absolutely lovely thing for the children to have done. I can't think of anything nicer. I'm thrilled!”

Dame Judi is up for best actress at this year's Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles on Sunday, for her role as a teacher in her latest film Notes on a Scandal.

But as her fellow actors stroll down the red carpet, posing for the photographers in glamorous outfits, Dame Judi will be in bed watching the ceremony on the television.

Speaking at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this month, she said: “The thing about the Oscars, it's strange, because in the theatre you would say 'break a leg'. I can't because I'm to have a knee operation. I'm going to have my leg broken and put back together.

“So I can't go to the awards, but I will watch and cheer from my bed.”

Putting the finishing touches on her card yesterday, Grace said: “We are doing this for Judi Dench because she is not very well at the moment and she won't be able to go to the Oscars.

“She is helping to save the Seagull Theatre so I have drawn seagulls on her card spelling out her name.”

Joanna added: “I saw her on the news the other day. I've drawn her a picture of the wind turbine and an aeroplane and a nice sunset over the beach.”

Christine Mason, headteacher at Meadow Primary, said: “The children had been talking about the Oscars and then when they heard Dame Judi couldn't make the ceremony because of the operation, they came up with the lovely idea to make her a card.

“When the Seagull Theatre was open we used it a lot for drama work and used the recording studio as part of our science lessons on sound. It helped us to enhance and deliver the curriculum in an exciting way,” she said.

“We were very disappointed when it was closed and we are just delighted an actress as famous as Judi Dench is helping our little theatre.”

In 1998, Dame Judi received an Oscar for her depiction of Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love, one of her five Academy Award nominations.