Brenda Hayes – Memories of the Memorial Hall

28 Years of Old Time Musicals

1980 was an ‘annus horribilus’ for me and my children. My marriage had broken up and my eldest daughter had been killed in a road accident.

I had been connected to the guides and brownies for several years as a guider and as a parent. Woodford South district were arranging to put on a show in the memorial hall and I was asked to play the piano. “Riding on the crest of the wave” sounded great fun but after my daughter died in December that year I hoped that they would cancel the show but unknown to me the guiders had a meeting and decided to go ahead. My thanks to all the guiders of Woodford South who made that decision. It was the greatest decision ever and changed my life. The first Guidalong in 1981 at the Memorial Hall was a great success.

After the show parents of the girls who had helped backstage held a ‘wrap’ party in my house in St. Albans Crescent and as I played the piano and they sang songs an idea was born. Why not put on another show performed by the parents. They were joined by friends, husbands, wives and scouters to raise money for the local guides and brownies and in February 1982 the first Old Time Music Hall by The Entire Company was staged in the Memorial Hall. It was such a success we did it again in April and October that year and many, many times over the next 28 years raising money for lots of charities and performing at sheltered housing units, care homes etc etc. Whoever would have thought it? We were all amateurs and had never done anything like it before but gradually we found confidence in our performances and what fun we had.

A very young shy South Woodford boy joined us to paint a backdrop. Very soon he was ‘treading the boards’ which increased his confidence. During one show he fainted on stage and on investigation it was found that he had an enormous splinter in his foot (seaside medley of songs in costume and bare feet). That young man is today a Production Designer for television designing sets for shows such as Pointless and Take Me Out. Well done Dominic !!!

Each dress rehearsal we invited local elderly people and members of clubs for the disabled to watch the show free of charge in the hall. We enrolled an army of volunteers to pick them up from their homes. These volunteers also made tea in the kitchen at the back of the hall. Some guests were in wheelchairs and had to enter by the side door. Many of these guests said they had not been out since the year before. They all had a free raffle ticket and most won a prize (all supplied by members of the company). Happy days in the Memorial Hall.

There are so many memories of our time in the Memorial Hall. It was like our second home. The coloured lights always enhanced the atmosphere and the hall was perfect for a step back in time to the days of the Music Hall. For me, life saving and making many friends along the way. Fond memories of the Memorial Hall.