On the 20th February 2016 The Trustees of Woodford Memorial Hall held a vote of 12 nominees for the naming of four rooms at the hall. The lead up to the day was fun and so many people assisted, It was exciting when people who couldn’t attend on the day dropped into the office with their postal vote and yes I did I resisted looking at who they had voted for.
Anny Wortley-Malik who volunteered to help with the exhibition display was great and came on the 19th and worked her socks off. There was so much more information to present that we hardly had enough boards to place everything on, thankfully Barry Mingay put up extra large boards so that we could display the the art work from the children at Churchfields and Woodford High School . Anny had only come in for a couple of hours to help but ended staying the whole day and coming back on 20th to help me finish off. At the very last moment I had found a great interview by Sylvia Pankhurst on becoming a mother which I added, and of course there was more information on Attlee, Churchill, Catherine Gladstone, William Morris and Woodford Hall.
The Brownies and Guides who were having a thinking day on the 19th February had a pre-view of the display as did their Leaders. I loved the fact that the Brownies and Guides wanted to take the suffragette pins I had made as part of the Pankhurst display, and before I knew it they had all gone. What I found most inspiring though was that some of the Guides voted and they took it very seriously taking their time and really considering their choices. As I observed these young girls casting their votes I couldn’t help thinking how proud Sylvia Pankhurst would have been.
The 20th February dawned and having arrived at the Hall at 7.30 a.m. to finish off the display, blow up balloons and tie them up outside to catch the attention of people passing by (why is it that balloons don’t like being blown up and one always manages to fly away) and set up the tables etc I doubled and tripled check that everything was in order. I then had to concede to Rector Ian Tarrant that we would have to put an extra table out in the hall (which I informed him would interfere with the flow of the exhibition, but which he quite rightly pointed out would be necessary for people to be able to lean on when they were writing down their votes) smile. With the rest of the volunteers due to attend at any minute I was a bit irritated with myself because having remembered to get chocolate eclairs for the Churchill display (Churchill loved chocolate eclairs, I realised I had forgotten to fill the decanter with apple juice to represent the whisky he liked to imbibe of. Unfortunately there was no time to sort that out because suddenly there was Viveca Dutt trying to decide the best place for the raffle table and Jackie Peacock and Wendy Littlejohn all jostling over the table where they would be sitting and welcoming the votes in their capacity as
polling clerks , sorting out the raffle prizes and re-positioning the post box for the votees to cast their votes. Then Dick Walker and Kit Dobson, arrived swiftly followed by Anne Jones who were welcoming the members of the community who had come to cast their votes and where would we have been without Elizabeth Nicklause, Mitzie Walker Louie Park and Audrey Barclay who were like rays of sunshine as they passed out hundreds of cups and teas and biscuits.
Some people knew who they wanted to vote for before coming to the hall but others wandered around the exhibit and made up their minds after reviewing the information displayed. There were loads of charming moments, I particularly enjoyed listening to Margaret and Lee as they wondered who might have left behind the shoe that we found under the floorboards when the refurbishment to the hall was being done and made some witty references to Cinderella. Later they sat down and giggled over the swimwear that people were wearing in the Edwardian films of circa 1902 that I had found and were being shown in the Hall.
Dick Walker was lovely and directed people to me whilst encouraging them to share their oral histories with me. I had an fascinating chat with Gerry Everett. Roger Nicholls chatted to me about his memories of the Hall, and remembered helping out with the Old Time Musicals , he hadn’t been to the Hall for many years and I took him on a little tour of the back of the hall where he informed me he spent some of his youth. Then there was the gentleman whose mother had stayed at the hall during WW2 having been sent there from Limehouse because their home had been bombed. It was wonderful watching people reading and viewing the exhibition and we had some lovely comments.
There was also a poignant moment when I met Daniel Clack’s father and grandfather and took a photo of them together. Daniel really looked like his grandfather. Later I spoke to his mum who is so proud of him and his brother, and has worked so hard to make sure that Daniel is remembered for the sacrifice he made of giving his life in Afghanistan.
I had arranged for Phillip Swallow, Alex Babumba, Ella Wicks,
Hannah Jackson, John Lannigan O’Keefe and Martin Freestone to re-enact the opening of the hall from the article printed in the papers on the 7th November 1902.
Ella and Hannah who are in the mid-teens and regularly perform with Stage One run by Caroline Airs at the hall took on the roles of Andrew Johnston, Sidney Isitt, E Buxton and A J Brown who spoke at the opening ceremony. They gave great performances. Alex took the role of the Rector (though for a moment there was a bit of concern as we had to find him a cassock to wear) Phillip was William Pearce the Committee Chairman and Bishop of Barking and very reverend he was to and John who is a fine baritone opened proceedings by singing the Old Hundredth hymn (which was sung at the 1902 ceremony) and then read the role of the Lord Mayor of London.
Unfortunately Martin was unable to attend on the day so at a moment’s notice, well 10 minutes to be precise Rector Ian Tarrant kindly filled in and read the role of D J Morgan. It was a little under rehearsed but still rather moving and someone said to me afterwards how much they had enjoyed it, especially when John put up the signs for when they should “cheer” .
What was a really noticeable about the day was not only the sense of community and the many memories the hall obviously invoked, but also the support that was provided by so many people to include the Local Papers , Lee of the South Woodford Village Gazette and my lovely friend Diane Priest who came and videoed every aspect of the day – I hope to have that video up shortly.
Suddenly it was all over and everyone had gone. Ian, Viveca, Wendy and Jackie began to count the votes. Anny and I took down the displays and the projector, folded up the tables etc, Anny then went home and I finished off prior to collapsing in a seat in the Hall where I listened to the remarks that were being made by the Vote Counters . As I departed for home Reverend Birchnall appeared to be in the lead.
Below are the details of the candidates that were nominated and comments about the exhibition.
REMARKS AND COMMENTS ABOUT THE 20TH FEBRUARY 2016
What a nice surprise to see so many exhibits on show and all so well laid out, very informative and enjoyable. Thank you M Mare
Very informative history- a lot of work has gone into the research etc. Pleased to see so many people enjoying the displays and that the hall is being well cared for. – Margaret Kamall and Lee Gudgeon
Quite outstanding day which has obviously been hard work. The exhibition gives visitors a very good insight into the history of the Memorial Hall. – Gerry Everett
The hall is a great memory of various times spent in the hall and it is great that is being “spoil” (looked after). The exhibits were excellent (I found my lost shoe)!! Barbara Horsnell
Very informative exhibit also very emotional with the wonderful contacts whom we feel we know personally. – Janet Beck
This exhibition brought back so many memories, very well done – Anne Gibbons