"At the age of three, I wanted to be the elephant lady in the circus (a thing I would disapprove of now - animals should be free), but in a sense I have actually  achieved that ambition - to be in show business and also work with animals.

As a child I spent all my spare time at the local vets' helping to clean and look after the animals. My parents promised me a pony if I passed the 11-plus at the age of nine - this galvanised me into action and I did pass it - but they reneged saying we could not keep a pony in the back garden and I was given a poodle called Noddy instead. 

I wanted to be a vet, but at the age of sixteen I was "discovered" by Columbia Pictures and The Evening Standard and sent to Hollywood to make a horror film called “The Candy Web” directed by William Castle (of Rosemary's Baby fame)

My parents insisted I went back to school in spite of an offer by Alfred Hitchcock and offers from Hollywood agents and  reluctantly I agreed.

However in the gap year I took before university I did a number of TV shows and was the Shell Girl for Europe which helped with my general finances and allowed me to carry on acting.

 I refused to go to university (something I later regretted) and at the age of twenty found myself starring in “The Champions”, which totally changed my life. Apart from becoming a household name in England, Scotland and Wales I became an international star, particularly in Spain and South America where they called me “La Bastedo”.

As a result I made twelve Spanish, American and South American films and learnt to speak fluent Spanish as well as Italian and French. At one time I maintained apartments in Madrid, Toronto and London.

I once worked out that I was on an airplane once every ten days. Eventually I had enough of my nomadic existence, returned to live full-time in England and married Patrick Garland (a former boyfriend), the artistic director of the Chichester Festival Theatre, considered to be the third most important theatre in England. Because of my languages I also presented Miss World with Peter Marshall and was invited to Number Ten Downing Street to talk to the Italian President Fanfani and his ministers who were in England on a  trade mission.

We moved to Chichester and bought a 16th century farmhouse with a Sussex barn and 3 acres and it was then that I was able to fulfil my dream of rescuing animals. Before that I had owned dogs, in particular Dobermans (who had kept away stalkers), but I was now able to take in abandoned donkeys, Shetlands, pigs, rabbits, ferrets, ducks, hens, geese and turkeys – not to mention hundreds of cats which I rehomed, apart that is from the twenty difficult ones which I kept.

At the same time I continued to act in plays at Chichester, helped my husband with all his charity functions and helped him raise the money for the smaller Minerva Theatre. Patrick ran the Chichester theatre most successfully for 10 years - he was the longest serving artistic director- and it was after that that we found a smaller house with 10 acres for the animals.

Needless to say the number of rescued animals has grown enormously and now includes sheep, horses, miniature shetlands, donkeys and innumerable unwanted domestic and wild fowl, as well as the masses of unwanted cats. In fact there is now so much work that we are now a fully fledged charity - the ABC Animal Sanctuary -  and we have over 55 kindly volunteers to help every week not to mention the support of the trustees and fund-raisers. I do still tour with plays and appear on televison or in films. It all helps with the funding of the sanctuary".

Alexandra Bastedo  

January 2012