Penny’s memories of ballet, Brownies and Agape at Woodford Memorial Hall

My memories of the Memorial Hall go back to early childhood. My older sister used to attend ballet classes there and trod the boards as an autumn leaf  wearing a maroon satin costume decorated with russet leaves. The Del Sarto School of Ballet was founded by Francesca Highfield and later taken over by Juan Sanchez. When my sister was a teenager she and her friends went to dances at the Memorial Hall; they wore caps over their stiletto heeled shoes to protect the old floor and made good use of the cloakroom facilities we’ve only just updated.  When I was a teenager I used to meet up with friends in the hall. Organised by Steve Collins from Grove Hill, we called our group Agape and took children from Mrs. Grint’s care home in the Drive to the swing park at weekends. At that time the church was still in ruins from the fire.
Both our daughters attended Brownies and Guides in the Hall, and as they had an age gap of nearly fourteen years, there was a lot of hanging round on Friday evenings in the side porch! Rosie took part in Gang Shows on the stage and Bryony went to both Seekers and Quest and Mr. Sanchez’s ballet classes. Since joining St. Mary’s I started helping out at the Christmas Bazaar ( 24 years ago?). For a while I ran an old-fashioned sweet stall and filled jam jars with old favourites like sherbet lemons and aniseed candy, even converting the prices into old- fashioned money and back again and had a stock of white paper bags from a local sweet shop, Basil’s, where I bought my supplies. Every year there was a colour theme: red and green or silver and blue. Jean and John Hill and Valerie Geller always won the prize for best costumes! David Ward was  Father Christmas, and was so realistic that children really believed it was him! There were also Saturday morning jumble sales and antique fairs in the old days. We have been to wedding receptions, barn dances, lectures, political hustings, public meetings, charity craft fairs, parties and funeral teas in the hall, not to mention harvest lunches regularly organised by the Fellowship Committee, old-time music hall concerts from the Entire Company and costumed soirees from Faith and Image.
I have always thought that living in Church End is like being in a village – so many people know each other whether or not they attend St. Mary’s. The Memorial Hall is at its hub, even more so now with the arrival of the U3A that attracts over 150 members. So it was not surprising that we hired the hall to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary: friends and neighbours piled in wearing Venetian style masks, all leaving their houses together and no one had to park their car or drive home. Long may it all last.
Penny Freeston

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