Click here for The Ken-Friends Birthday Projects 1997-2013


Birthday Fundraising Project 2017

In 2017 the Ken-Friends celebrated Kenneth Branagh's 57th birthday with a donation of $4,000 US, raised to support students from Northern Ireland under The William & Frances Branagh Memorial Award at the Royal Aacademy of Dramatic Art (RADA). The sum collected came from the sale of luggage tags celebrating Kenneth's role as director and lead actor in the 2017 film Murder On the Orient Express and from additional donations by Ken-Friends. The Ken-Friends total contribution to RADA over the years has amounted to $50,533, with $47,054 going to the Branagh bursary.

Here is Kenneth Branagh's thank-you:

Dear Friends,

Having spent a significant amount of time this year at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, I can continue to testify to what your exceptional generosity makes possible.

I felt very proud on your behalf to hear from those whose life and work has been helped significantly by what you have given.

RADAs record on inclusion, and diversity, and engagement reveals a practical truth that your money helps enable. If people from whatever background or nation have the exceptional talent and crucially, the commitment to come here, then they will not be denied by circumstance. The incredible work being produced is the rich reward.

People in that building are proud to say thank you to the Ken Friends, and they do I make sure of it!

Its another phenomenal sum you have raised this year, that would out-swell the proudest hopes my parents could ever have imagined, had they even dreamed of being remembered in this way. Thank you.

This has been an incredible year of work for me, with Dunkirk, on screen, Hamlet on stage, and Murder On The Orient Express steaming into a cinematic station to round the year off. Ive been privileged to work with the greatest of colleagues young, and well, mature, and have learnt much from both ends of that spectrum.

None of us however could have done any of it without people like yourselves who continue to support our work, wherever it appears. I cannot express adequately how grateful I am for this. The Ken Friends have been at the forefront of that support for decades.

May I thank you sincerely for another wonderful birthday present I have already affixed my most elegant luggage labels to my cases.

Your kindness is never more striking than in the tough world we currently occupy. I hope your part of it brings you and yours great health and happiness in the New Year, and onwards.

I wish you a happy holiday, and as always count myself proud, honoured and lucky to call you, my friends.

Ken Branagh


Since 1998 the Ken-Friends have have donated a grand total of $93,607 to Kenneth Branagh's charities/organisations. Not a bad accomplishment for our small "band of brothers".


The Ken-Friends Birthday Projects 1997-2016

In 1997 the Ken-Friends mailing list sent Kenneth Branagh an album made up of postcards members had sent from their locations all over the world. This was the genesis for an expanded project the following year which saw the production of a Ken-Friends t-shirt and an associated fundraising effort. The money raised was donated to the Ulster Association of Youth Drama, an an organisation Kenneth has supported over a number of years, and the project coordinator, Jude Tessel, had the privilege of giving Kenneth his present in person. Read all about it and see the photos.

In 1999 a new t-shirt, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the release of Henry V, was designed and produced, culminating in a donation of $4,554 US. Get details and read Kenneth's thank-you here.

In 2000 a pin, conceived in part to allow Ken-Friends who had never physically met to recognise each other (an alternative to "I'll be standing in front of the main doors holding a copy of Beginning"), was designed and produced and a donation of $6,050 US was raised. Get details and read Kenneth's thank-you here. The total donated to UAYD to date is $17,849 US and the donation to RADA to date is $2,518 US, making a grand total of $20,367 US since 1998.

In 2001 the Ken-Friends designed and produced a keychain ("t'is in my memory locked") which, along with a series of auctions of Branagh-related items held within the Ken-Friends .mailing list. helped to raise funds for our chosen charity. The amount raised this year was $4,601 US, which constituted a donation to UAYD of 3,197.77. Get details and read Kenneth's thank-you here.

In 2002 Kenneth Branagh's long-awaited return to the stage and the good times of the Ken-Friends Big Day Out in Sheffield in March 2002 were captured in the mug produced for the birthday fundraiser. Through this and other fundraising events a total of $7,701 US was raised and donated to UAYD, RADA and the Over the Wall Gang. Read details here.

In 2003 the Ken-Friends combined their annual birthday fundraising effort with a nod to The Play What I Wrote, with a handsome themed t-shirt. The generosity of participants allowed the Ken-Friends to send $3,520 US or 2,086 GBP to Ulster Association of Youth Drama for the 2004 Ken-Friends bursaries. Get details, see the shirt and read Kenneth's thank-you here.

In 2004 the fifteenth anniversary of the release of Kenneth Branagh's stunning film Henry V was celebrated by the Ken-Friends in their annual birthday fundraising effort with a commemorative mug. The generosity of participants allowed the Ken-Friends to send $4,602 US or 2,480 GBP to Ulster Association of Youth Drama for the 2005 Ken-Friends bursaries. See the mug, get details and read Kenneth's thank-you here.

In 2005 the Ken-Friends marked the tenth anniversary of the release of the delightful Kenneth Branagh film In the Bleak Midwinter/A Midwinter's Tale by producing a "Midwinter" ornament for their annual birthday fundraising effort. The generosity of participants allowed the Ken-Friends to send $3,209 US or 1,826 GBP to the Ulster Association of Youth Drama for the 2006 Ken-Friends bursaries. See the ornament, get details and read Kenneth's thank-you here.

In 2006 the Ken-Friends fundraising activity paid hommage to the 10th anniversary of the release of Kenneth Branagh's film Hamlet. The design and production of a bookmark allowed us to send $3,275 US to Project Shakespeare, to take a group of Catholic and Protestant children from Northern Ireland to Stratford. See the bookmark, get details and read Kenneth's thank-you here.

In 2007 the Ken-Friends fundraising activity marked the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Renaissance Theatre Company. The design and production of a tote bag allowed us to send $3,200 US to Project Shakespeare for their annual student activities. See the tote bag, get details and read Kenneth's thank-you here.

In 2008 the Ken-Friends marked Kenneth Branagh's 48th birthday with a bound collection of their favourite poems and a donation of $4,500 to the William and Frances Branagh Memorial Bursary fund for students from Northern Ireland. Get details and read Kenneth's thank-you here.

In 2009 the Ken-Friends returned to the always popular t-shirt for their annual fundraising project, this time to celebrate Kenneth Branagh's 49th birthday, raising a total of $4,748. See the t-shirt, get details and read Kenneth's thank-you here.

In 2010 the Ken-Friends decided to celebrate Kenneth Branagh's 50th birthday with a donation of $4,565 US to the William and Frances Branagh Memorial Bursary fund for students from Northern Ireland, and also with a special donation of $728 US to name a seat in the newly refurbished Lyric Theatre in Belfast in Kenneth's honour. Get details and read Kenneth's thank-you here.

In 2011 Kenneth Branagh's 51st birthday was marked by the Ken-Friends with a donation of $4,051 US for students from Northern Ireland through the William and Frances Branagh Memorial Bursary fund at the Royal Aacademy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Get details and learn about Kenneth's thank-you here.

In 2012 the Ken-Friends celebrated Kenneth Branagh's 52nd birthday with a donation of $5,806 US to the William and Frances Branagh Memorial Bursary fund at the Royal Aacademy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Get details and learn about Kenneth's thank-you here.

In 2013 Kenneth Branagh's 53rd birthday was marked by the Ken-Friends with a sum of $5,000 US donated to the William and Frances Branagh Memorial Bursary fund at the Royal Aacademy of Dramatic Art (RADA).

In 2014 the Ken-Friends honoured Kenneth Branagh's 54th birthday with a donation of $5,400 US to the the William and Frances Branagh Memorial Bursary fund destined for students from Northern Ireland studying at the Royal Aacademy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Get details and read Kenneth's thank-you here.

In 2015 the Ken-Friends celebrated Kenneth Branagh's 55th birthday with a donation of $3,200 US, raised to support students from Northern Ireland under The William & Frances Branagh Memorial Award at the Royal Aacademy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Get details and read Kenneth's thank-you here.

In 2016 Kenneth Branagh's 56th birthday was marked by the Ken-Friends with a sum of $4,007 US donated to the William and Frances Branagh Memorial Bursary fund at the Royal Aacademy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Get details and read Kenneth's thank-you here.


Kenneth dispenses pearls of wisdom to a Renaissance Award winner

Kenneth recieves pearls of wisdom from a Renaissance Award winner
Ohmigosh! The now-famous Susan Lynch!