Piecing Together Our History
Pastor James Hanson (known to many as ‘Pop’) was in charge of the Mahogany Bar Mission from 1921 to 1937. Three years ago, his grandson, Chris Hanson, sent us images of photographs from his grandfather's time at the Mission, along with other items from his family collection. It was the picture of Pastor Hanson with children in Graces Alley that prompted Sylvie Richards (nee Georgiades) to write to us, showing once again that Wilton’s history is a story told by many voices. Every memory provides a glimpse of the past and together they bring the past to life.
The Memory Project
Photograph of Pastor James Hanson with children in Graces Alley, reproduced by kind permission of Chris Hanson.
Sylvie wrote ‘My daughter has just emailed me your site. I lived at No.7 Graces Alley prior to the Second World War with my grandparents Alec and Norah Ottolangui and their extended family. I have many happy memories both of life in the Alley, the Mahogany Bar, St Paul’s School and the children who lived and played in Wellclose Square.’ The picture was particularly poignant for Sylvie as it brought back memories of her late cousins, Mary McDonald, the child third from the left and Mary's sister Shirley, holding Mary's hand. Sylvie thinks that the child on the tricycle in the second picture may have been herself 'I certainly had a little bike and those horrible ankle-strap shoes which I always hated.'
‘My Grandparents and their extended family lived at No. 7 Graces Alley and most of my childhood between the age of four and seven was spent there. The Mahogany Bar as it was then known was a really important place in the life of myself and my cousins, who also lived at No. 7. In fact three families lived there, all related, one on each floor. It was an amazing and lovely childhood, although a bit crowded.
The Mahogany Bar was a Mission in those days and most Sundays a slide projection show was held which was, of course, religion based and no doubt meant to influence the children attending. Prayers were also included. This would be followed by afternoon tea consisting of jam sandwiches, bread and butter, cakes and soft drinks. We were also given little goody sweet bags.
My cousins and I were Jewish as were many of the other children but this didn’t stop us going there. In spite of sometimes being terrified by the slides which included pictures of Jesus on the Cross and God depicted as an old man with white hair and angels and clouds around him, we were definitely not going to miss out on the tea and sweets!
The Mahogany Bar was also used as a social centre with Shows being produced for and by the local community and also what was probably the equivalent of Jumble sales. To my young eyes, it was all hugely glamorous and a wonderful experience.
The area around Wellclose Square was mainly Jewish and Irish. Doors were never closed or locked and everyone got on with their neighbours. Children played together beautifully. The Square was our playground and the lamp-post at the bottom of the Alley (almost outside the Mahogany Bar) was our Maypole. We used to tie long skipping ropes to the top of the post and swing round it. Wonderful!
St Paul’s School is still there and I attended for a short time before the war. I last visited the area a few years ago, it has changed dramatically. But it was great to see the Mahogany Bar re-emerge as the original Wilton’s Music Hall, thanks to all those dedicated people who restored this wonderful old building for a new generation.’
- Sylvie Richards
Do you have a memory or photo of Wilton’s from before 2004 or know someone who does? Maybe you were part of a film shoot or your family grew up in the area. We are collecting stories and would love to hear from you.
Email our Historian, Carole, on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Word of the Day from Floyd Collins
It may sound like an embarrassingly intrusive medical procedure but, no, it's what's happening today in our Floyd Collins rehearsal studio and it's something very special!
Sitzprobe is, in fact, the first coming together of full band and cast, in this case for a full run-through of Floyd Colllins The Musical. Glorious sounds have been wafting down the corridor past our offices today, seriously whetting our appetite to see this one-of-a-kind musical show - think down-home gig with a powerful story. Meanwhile, here are a few behind the scenes rehearsal pics for you to enjoy and a wonderful trailer to tell you more about Floyd's world.
Floyd Collins The Musical runs 22nd September to 15th October and bluegrass band, The Sand Cave Crickets, will be playing in the Cocktail Bar before every performance and during the interval. Click here to buy tickets.
Jobs: Head of Development and Communications
The Head of Development and Communications is responsible for maximising the net financial contribution to the charity generated by: public funding; trusts, foundations and livery companies, high-net-worth individuals; friends and patrons; corporate sponsorship and local businesses; support-in-kind. This role will also oversee the marketing department and ensure that Wilton’s outward facing message is strong and clear, the brand is understood and that marketing is coordinated and consistent maximising ticket sales. Wilton’s is run by a small team and this is a key senior management role, expected to increase fundraising and sales targets, whilst also setting strategy and being accountable for long-term growth.
You will be an experienced fundraiser with an entrepreneurial, go-getting approach and a strong sense of ambition. In return, this senior leadership role gives you the opportunity to work at board level and make your mark during this period of high growth at one of the UK’s best-loved venues.
Deadline 18.00 on Friday 14th October 2016.
Send applications to:
Via email to - Becky Ruffell: email@example.com
Via post to - Becky Ruffell, Wilton’s Music Hall, Graces Alley, London, E1 8JB
Download the job description and application form here (docx)
Peter Honri (1929-2016)
Wilton’s is saddened to hear of the passing of Peter Honri. Peter was one of Wilton’s chief campaigners who worked tirelessly to save Wilton’s Music Hall.
Born in 1929, Peter was a natural performer, and in 1951 formed jazz band the High Curley Stompers. An accomplished musician he inherited his grandfather’s talent on the concertina, above pictured with Mary Honri and Roy Hudd. He was the fourth generation of a line of renowned variety performers. His grandfather, Percy Honri, performed with his parents as the Royal Thompson Trio. When appearing in Paris a spelling error of Percy Henry birthed the name ‘Honri’ which stuck throughout his career. Peter’s father formally changed the family name, with Peter becoming the first to be born ‘Honri’.
Peter joined the fight for Wilton’s in 1972 and was part of the first Trust for the Restoration of Wilton’s. As a member of Equity and with his network of industry friends, Peter wrote tirelessly to the leading lights of variety entertainment to build support for the struggling Wilton’s. Along with Marius Goring he fought against the GLC’s granting Wilton’s lease to the Half Moon Theatre Company, believing this threatened to turn the populist music hall to an overtly political theatre. Their success raised plans for a National Centre for Variety Entertainment.
In 1978 Peter became the founder-director of the newly formed London Music Hall Protection Society; the group tasked with restoring Wilton’s and named after an 1860 organisation established by John Wilton himself to oppose a bill preventing music halls from any form of spoken performance. As Artistic Director, Peter prepared ‘An Artistic Blueprint’ for Wilton’s. Based on a return to classic music hall format, proposed shows such as ‘Wilton’s Varieties’ aimed to discover and encourage new talent in variety performance.
The campaign launch took place at All Hallows by the Tower after the granting of the lease to Wilton’s for a peppercorn rent. In reference to the historic Knollys Rose Ceremony, a symbolic rent tradition dating back to 1381, Peter placed a rose on the altar cushion. That preserved flower is now held as a treasured item in the Wilton’s archive.
After a series of fundraising events work was finally commenced on the restoration of Wilton’s, with work replacing and restoring the hall roof begun in the early 1980s. Peter’s interest in the history of the hall, as well as his concern for the future of the building, lead to his research into the life of John Wilton and the acts who performed on the Wilton’s stage. He compiled his findings and imaginings of the era into his book ‘The Handsomest Room in Town’, written as a diary of Wilton’s founder.
Funding to continue building work could not be sustained and Wilton's remained derelict until the recent conservation and repair. Throughout the years Peter Honri remained an enthusiastic champion of Wilton’s. His belief that Wilton’s could be restored and become a viable and popular performance venue has borne out. Peter returned to see the completed Wilton’s and is seen here performing in the hall with Christopher Beeching as Champagne Charlie.
Passion and commitment like Peter’s, as much as stone and steel, has supported Wilton’s rescue and repair. Having been brought into a wreck of a building it was a proud moment that Peter was able to sign on the lease ‘return to original use’.
Christmas is coming!
It may still be hot and steamy out there but the nights are drawing in, the leaves are beginning to fall and our thoughts are turning to... PANTO!
After an industrious week of costume fitting, we had a day of hectic fun yesterday with our official pantomime photo shoot.
We're thanking the Panto Fairy for blessing us with the same ace team who kitted out last year's cast - Tony Priestly and Paula Patterson. Having worked together, on and off, for around thirty years, our dynamic duo have dressed the great and the good on stages the length and breadth of the country. It's not unusual for Tony to be working on two or more pantos at any given time and, this year, we're in excellent company because he's doing Dick Whittington at the Birmingham Hippodrome and Cinderella at the Palladium, as well as our very own Mother Goose. Tony and Paula have done us proud again this year, we have the most wonderful cast and creative team we could have wished for and we're VERY EXCITED about it all, so here are a few of our lovely official photos plus some silly behind the scenes snaps for you to enjoy.
Amelia Rose Morgan as Jill and Ian Parkin as Squire Stingy
Roy Hudd as Mother Goose and Ian Jones as her son Willy
Gareth Davies as Vanity and Julia Sutton as Virtue
Priscilla the Goose as Herself
Paula weighs up a couple of things with Roy
You're 'avin' a larf ain't yer?
Virtue and Mother Goose swap beauty tips
Tony plumps up our Goose
Mother Goose runs 2nd to 31st December. Hurry and buy your tickets here!
Official photography by Matt Crossick
Floyd Collins: Cast Announced
We're getting ready to take a journey to Floyd Collins' breathtaking Sand Cave in this all-new production of Adam Guettel and Tina Landau’s award-winning musical. Our exciting line up includes...
Floyd Collins will be played by Ashley Robinson.
Ashley played Tyler in Maria Friedman’s Olivier Award-winning production of Merrily We Roll Along, both at the Menier Chocolate Factory and in the West End. He created the role of Tybalt in The Last Goodbye (the Jeff Buckley/Romeo and Juliet musical), as well as the role of Jett Rink in the world premiere of Giant (Helen Hayes award nomination). His other theatre includes Wicked (original Chicago cast), Studs Terkel’s The Good War and the 40th Anniversary production of Hair. Film and TV credits include Hate (with Marcia Gay Harden), Fallen Souls and The Accident.
Nellie Collins will be played by Rebecca Trehearn.
Rebecca was most recently seen as Julie La Verne in Daniel Evans’ critically acclaimed production of Show Boat in the West End. Her other theatre credits include Aspects of Love at the Menier Chocolate Factory, Dogfight at the Southwark Playhouse and City of Angels at the Donmar Warehouse. She has also appeared in We Will Rock You, Dirty Dancing and Love Story (West End), the UK tour of Ghost and Alfie the Musical (Palace Theatre, Watford). Rebecca’s television credits include Carla Hewson in Casualty (BBC) and Angharad in A470 (S4C). Rebecca won The Wow Factor for S4C which led to the release of her self-titled solo CD.
Lee Collins will be played by Jack Chissick
Jack most recently appeared in the 2016 Olivier Award-winning production of Gypsy in the West End. His previous theatre includes People at the National Theatre, She Loves Me at Chichester Theatre Festival, The Fairy Queen for Jonathan Kent in New York and Paris and Kiss Me Kate in the West End. His television credits include Silent Witness, Canterbury Tales: The Pardoner's Tale, Foyle’s War, Judge John Deed and Midsomer Murders. Film credits include Les Misérables for Working Title/Tom Hooper, Ex Memoria and Somerstown for Shane Meadows.
Miss Jane will be played by Sarah Ingram
Sarah’s West End credits include Oklahoma!, South Pacific, Martin Guerre, Flashdance, Imagine This, Murderous Instincts and Napoleon. Her other recent credits include Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd at Twickenham Theatre, the European premiere Road Show at the Menier Chocolate Factory, the UK premiere of See What I Wanna See at Jermyn Street Theatre, Taboo at Brixton Clubhouse and Annie at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.
The rest of the cast will be announced soon.
Read the full press release here (pdf).
Britten in Brooklyn: Cast Announced
The countdown to Britten in Brooklyn has begun, rehearsals are in full swing and the chaise longue has arrived!
Joining the previously announced Sadie Frost will be Ruby Bentall (cousin Verity in Poldark) as writer Carson McCullers, David Burnett (Henry Foster in Brave New World) as the mysterious John Dunne, John Hollingworth (Design for Living at the Old Vic, Capt Henshawe in Poldark) as poet WH Auden and Ryan Sampson (Grumio in TV comedy Plebs, Charles ‘Boz’ Dickens in TV’s The Frankenstein Chronicles) as composer Britten.
Directed by Oli Rose, Britten in Brooklyn will play for a strictly limited season of 21 performances from 31 August - 17 September.
Find out more and book tickets here: wiltons.org.uk/whatson
Jobs: Assistant Technical Manager
The Assistant Technical Manager (ATM) is a key role within Wilton’s and assists the effective technical operation of all the spaces within the venue. The ATM will share responsibility for the day-to-day running of the Hall and other spaces when required under the supervision of the Technical Manager.
Applications may be made in any format you feel most comfortable with (e.g. large print, tape, Braille or British Sign language on DVD or video). When using an alternative format, please use the same headings. You may apply by enclosing a CV but please ensure it includes the information requested below.
Applications can be sent by email or post but must arrive by 12.00 on Friday 2nd September 2016.
Please send applications
Please send applications
via email to Becky Ruffell: firstname.lastname@example.org
via post to Becky Ruffell, Wilton’s Music Hall, Graces Alley, London, E1 8JB.Job Description and Application Form (docx)
An Audience with Miss Hope Springs
The crackle of sequins, the rustle of chiffon and the heady aroma of eyelash adhesive - yes, we're cock-a-hoop to welcome the legendary Miss Hope Springs onto our premises. Ahead of her glittering three-night reign over our historic auditorium next week, we were honoured to be granted a bijou chat-ette with this one-in-a-million glamour puss.
What has been the high spot of your career to date?
I have just gotten back from an exhausting 132 date coast-to-coast tour of the USA with my husband Irving (and his close friend Carlos who travels with us and helps with my hair and makeup). We were in the winnebago going through downtown Hicksville, we pulled in to get some Mexican food, the waiter recognised me (from my 1969 cable TV special Latin ala Springs) and...I got a free taco!
And an experience to make you shudder at the memory?
When my friend the Swedish 'art house'' actress Alaena Traffik and I went to the, hugely fashionable at the time (it was the Summer of Love), naked disco in Oslo. We walked in, took all our clothes off. When the dry ice cleared we were in the wrong club.
Who has influenced you more than anyone?
My mother Rusty (Rusty Springs). She’s my rock. Well…actually more like a piece of pumice these days. Rusty started out as an exotic dancer in Nebraska in the 1940s. Tragically I lost her only last week….Well, Victoria Coach Station at rush hour is a nightmare. She was halfway to Newcastle before I realised.
You sing a wonderful song about making the most of your good points - what do you feel is your greatest asset?
I think it’s my tenacity. As an actress I’ve been turned down by every producer and director in Hollywood (and not for just acting roles). My recording career went nowhere when I was dropped by Capitola Records in late 1979 because my disco LP Blood, Sweat and Sequins sold only 12 copies. And yet here I am still trying to ignite the flame of success in your beautiful country. I always say, who knows what’s just around the corner? Actually I do...it’s a bus-stop and a Cafe Nero but that’s not what I mean.
Vintage Hope: her natural beauty shining through
Do you have any beauty or fashion tips for the ladies?
Do you have any beauty or fashion tips for the ladies?
Well I’m just a natural gal…I towel dry my hair, pinch my cheeks and I’m done. Although I guess I am lucky to be blessed with extremely thick naturally blonde hair…it’s my Irish, Lithuanian, Inuit genes. And my eyelashes are famous for being super thick and luxurious... like Elizabeth Taylor’s, did you know she had three rows of lashes? I have 7. Liz was famous for her eyes supposedly being violet (she was a bosom pal of mine and trust me, in reality the eyes were actually just a weird puce colour, poor girl, she wore those gaudy Kaftan’s and big diamonds to distract people’s attention away from them).
And for the gentlemen?
Very tight white pants, and a white shirt open to the navel. Preferably with a very hairy chest and a medallion. Unlike a lot of people I love a man with back-hair…so don’t wax is my advice. Or alternatively the Liberace look... I’ve always been a sucker for understated masculine elegance.
If you were marooned on a desert island, who would you most like to have washed up on your shore?
It’s already happened, darling. And it was Tab Hunter! A beautiful man and a talented actor (well, a beautiful man anyway). We were in a movie called Strangers in Paradise. Sadly I ended up on the cutting room floor and they re-shot all my scenes with Lassie. Go figure. To be honest I fell for Tab in a big way. But, he just saw me as an object... Not a sex object…just an object.
If you're quick off the mark, you might still catch tickets for Hope's exclusive cabaret - Tuesday 9th to Thursday 11th August - where you can gather more of her pearls of wisdom. Don't say we don't spoil you.
Photographs of Hope by Zoe Hunn
Introducing Aimi Macdonald
Although, for many, she needs no introduction and will always be known as 'The Lovely Aimi Macdonald'. After being spotted by David Frost, Aimi joined the team on the iconic television sketch show, At Last, the 1948 Show, where she starred alongside John Cleese, Marty Feldman, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graham Chapman. She was always introduced as 'The Lovely Aimi Macdonald' and the moniker stuck.
Photograph of Aimi by Peter Robertson
Having begun her career as a dancer in Paris and Las Vegas, Aimi found herself catapulted to fame in 1967 by At Last, the 1948 Show and she quickly became a household name on television. Roles on the big screen and West End stage followed and, over the years, Aimi worked with most of the best known stars of the era, both in the UK and on overseas tours. The list is long and distinguished - Oliver Reed, Richard O'Sullivan, Roger Moore, Shirley Maclaine, Jack Jones - to name only a few.
Aimi's film and stage credits read like a catalogue of the greatest hits of the 1960s, '70s and beyond: Ray Cooney's Run For Your Wife, Coward's Present Laughter, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Sez Les with Les Dawson, Celebrity Squares with Bob Monkhouse and, more recently, the stage production of Summer Holiday with Christopher Biggins. She also performed with Lionel Blair in Lady Be Good at the then beautiful art deco Saville Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue. She will never forget the opening night: "After the show, I had Jane Russell and Jack Benny in my dressing room! I was so young, I was barely more than a child and totally in awe. My big ambition had always been to star in a musical so I felt a bit as though I lost a little of my ambition after that high spot."
Aimi with the cast of At Last, The 1948 Show
A few decades later, Aimi has come full circle, having returned to cabaret, where she started out. In her youth, she played very much the soubrette whereas, now, she regales audiences with a lifetime of wonderful, engrossing anecdotes, illustrated with classic songs. She is thoroughly enjoying writing and directing her own shows and, after years of screen work, performing with her pianist, Trevor Defferd, in much more cosy, intimate settings. Thanks to an abundance of her early work now being available on the internet, she is also finding it very amusing and rewarding to be recognised in public by much younger audiences and delighted that they are enjoying the shows that made her name.
Aimi is, indeed, very lovely and we guarantee she'll entertain you to within an inch of your life with I Did It This Way so come and catch up with all her gossip - you know you want to.