Ernest Hecht

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Ernest Hecht (born 1929) is a British publisher, producer, and philanthropist. He is the founder (in 1951), owner and managing director of Souvenir Press Ltd, the last remaining independently owned major publishing house in Great Britain.[1] In 2003 he set up the Ernest Hecht Charitable Foundation.[2]

Early life[edit]

Born in 1929 in Czechoslovakia, Ernest Hecht arrived in Britain as a Kindertransport child in 1939; he recalls: “On the train to England as a young man, I remember throwing up on one of the Gestapo. My mother must have been terrified but the man said it was ok because he had children of his own.”[1] He was evacuated to Wiltshire, then to Minehead, Somerset. He read Economics and Commerce at Hull University College.


Hecht started Souvenir Press in 1951 in his bedroom with a loan of £250. He built the business up and has now successfully run the company for sixty years. Souvenir press now has over 500 titles in print and has had number one bestsellers on both sides of the Atlantic. He has published five Nobel laureates, including Norwegian novelist Knut Hamsun and the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.[3] He received the British Book Awards Lifetime Achievement award in 2001 and has been a chairman of the Society of Bookmen.


Souvenir Press also presented many theatrical productions, including Uproar in the House with Brian Rix, Joan Sims, and Nicholas Parsons; Sign Here Please by Valentin Katev, adapted by Marty Feldman; with Terry Scott, Peter Jones and Ambrosine Philpotts; and most recently The World's Wife by Carol Ann Duffy; with Sinéad Cusack, Harriet Walter, Jan Watson, Lynn Farleigh and Barb Jungr.

The Ernest Hecht Charitable Foundation[edit]

Set up in 2003, the Ernest Hecht Charitable Foundation has the aim of providing financial and practical assistance that can "make a difference". The Foundation aims to support the work of other charitable organisations in helping the disadvantaged and promoting the advancement of the arts and education by making grants, with the aim of making a difference in a particular field.[4] Charities and organisations the Foundation has so far been able to support include: Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge; Cardboard Citizens; University College London; Chickenshed Theatre;[5] The National Gallery's Dame Myra Hess Day;[6] Whizz-Kidz; Royal College of Music; React – Rapid Effective Assistance for Children with Potentially Terminal illness; Alzheimer's Society "Singing for the Brain" groups;[7] Action for Blind People; InterAct Reading Service; Mildmay Mission Hospital; Dementia Care; Resource: The Jewish Employment Advice Centre; Scottish Disability Golf Partnership; British Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association; Tricycle Theatre; Macmillan Centre Clinical Nurse Specialists; Salvation Army; RAF Benevolent Fund; St John's Hospice; Marie Curie Cancer Care Nurses; St John's Ambulance.[8]


Hecht's awards include the Neruda Medal presented by the Chilean government, and an honorary fellowship of University College London, in 2006.[9]

Personal life[edit]

He continues to live and work in London, where he is a long-standing supporter of Arsenal F.C.[1] He was the literary agent of Brazilian footballer Pelé and found the time to attend nine of the past 11 World Cup finals by 2002.[10]


  1. ^ a b c Foot, Tom (5 May 2006). "Celebrating the voices which sang the changes". Camden New Journal. Retrieved 5 November 2011. 
  2. ^ "Ernest Hecht", The Ernest Hecht Charitable Foundation.
  3. ^ Cowley, Jason (11 November 2000). "The last of the literary entrepreneurs". The Times. Retrieved 5 November 2011. 
  4. ^ "Ernest Hecht Charitable Foundation accounts". Charity Commission. 27 October 2011. Retrieved 5 November 2011. 
  5. ^ "Facilities for Blind and Partially Sighted Visitors", Chickenshed.
  6. ^ "The Ernest Hecht Charitable Foundation", The National Gallery.
  7. ^ "Lady Mayoress of London opens Singing for the Brain™ group in Croydon", Alzheimer's Scoiety, 6 July 2012.
  8. ^ "Who We Have Funded", Ernest Hecht Charitable Foundation.
  9. ^ "UCL Fellowships conferred". University College London. 22 June 2006. Retrieved 5 November 2011. 
  10. ^ Hecht, Ernest (28 January 2002). "Beautiful game". New Statesman. Retrieved 5 November 2011. 

External links[edit]