Once again a fundraising event for the Friends of the Devonshire Park Theatre was dogged by the weather, but the wind and rain did not deter our loyal supporters from turning out for what was the last event to be held by the Friends in the Congress Suite before its demolition in the New Year to make way for the exciting developments at the Congress Theatre.


Opened by Friends’ Patron, actor Brian Murphy and his actress/crime novelist wife Linda Regan (and their delightful dog Frendy), the atmosphere was soon buzzing as the crowd moved around the various stalls bagging those bargains. As usual, cakes and toys proved winners but all the stalls were kept busy throughout the morning.  Trade was particularly brisk for Linda, whose new novel “Sisterhoods” is out later this month, as she and Brian sold and signed her books for eager fans.  The Friends are really grateful to her for donating the profit on these sales to them.


Among the visitors were two cast members from “Dead Sheep”, Paul Bradley (well known to television audiences for his roles in “Holby City” and “Eastenders”) and Steve Nallon – a founder member of the “Spitting Image” team whose brilliant portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in the play has received great critical acclaim. Eastbourne’s MP Caroline Ansell listened intently as he was interviewed by Edward Thomas as his alter ego, the Iron Lady herself!  We understand that she went to see the play for herself that evening.

Once again, the Friends were grateful to their members, distinguished visitors, the attending public and all those who supported their efforts at this fair which raised around £1,500 to be put to good use in our beautiful theatre.



Posted November 8th, 2016

Don’t forget to come along to the Congress Theatre on Saturday morning (12 November) for our Autumn Fair in the Foyer and Congress Suite. This year we are absolutely delighted to be welcoming our long-standing Patron, Brian Murphy, who will be opening the event at 10am.  Brian will be accompanied by his wife – the renowned actress and crime writer – Linda Regan who will be selling and signing her books.  Linda is kindly donating the profit from the sale of her books on Saturday to The Friends!


With many different stalls and fun things to do – not forgetting our now famous cake and toy stalls – you will be spoilt for choice!  A good opportunity do some early Christmas shopping, or try to win some festive cheer in the wine and spirit raffles, or perhaps chance your luck on the tombola or the instant raffle. Then sit down and relax with a cup of coffee or tea and tempting homemade cakes and scones.

Help makes this Fair – sadly the last we will hold in the Congress Suite – the most successful ever!

Posted October 23rd, 2016

Joy and Derrick had their audience singing and clapping along – even if the chorus was in Gaelic – as they entertained the Friends in the Gold Room with their repertoire of traditional music and songs and their amusing anecdotes.


The duo first played for the Friends in April 2008 – in the snow!  It was a somewhat warmer Sunday afternoon eight years on and still a pleasure to listen to Joy’s beautiful singing and hear and experience some of the many different instruments they had brought along with them – from a hammer dulcimer, to a crumhorn, psaltery, serpent, whistles galore (including one dating back to Victorian times with a lead mouthpiece – not played!), recorders, harp, Northumbrian small pipes and a myriad of others in between!


For many there, a new word entered their vocabulary:  “Twagger”.  Joy and Derrick are both members of the Twagger Band and, as Joy explained, in her part of the country (South Yorkshire) it was a word used to describe something with no name – a thing-a-me-jig!

The raffle raised £100.51.

Posted September 24th, 2016

Next week, for the first time, we are exhibiting at The Good Life Show being held in the Winter Garden on Wednesday 28 September.

This event, celebrating all that is good in life for the over 50s, is open between 10am and 4pm and admission is free.   So, do come along to say hello.

We will be selling our lovely new Christmas cards – which are going fast – so a good chance for you to get yours before they disappear!

Look forward to seeing you on Wednesday!


Posted September 18th, 2016

Around 90 Friends gathered in the Congress Suite to take part in a quiz set for them by the Rattonians’ own Mark and Melanie Adams.


Quizmasters – Mark and Melanie Adams

Admitting this was the first time they had devised a quiz, Mark and Melanie explained – to the consternation of many of the six-strong teams – their questions were to be mainly set around the theatre – and in true Rattonians’ tradition, musical theatre at that!

Fortunately for many of those gathered, only the top scoring teams were identified – there would probably have been a whole load of contestants for the lowest score booby prize  (if there had been one!)  – and it was little surprise that the  winning team had two members very closely associated with musical theatre during their professional lives – Gaye Vaughan and Jackie (Toye) Davies.   Well done to them.


The Winning Team

It was a somewhat bemused gathering that settled down to enjoy their tea of sandwiches and cake!

The raffle held that afternoon raised £116.

Posted August 20th, 2016

Quite a turnout

Alas no glorious summer day this year, but forecasted gale force winds did not deter us from mounting our annual Summer Fête on the Western Lawns.  The event was opened by the Major of Eastbourne, Councillor Pat Hearn, who entered into the true spirit of the occasion by visiting nearly all the stalls and trying her luck on the many raffles and games – and even sampling a glass of Pimm’s!

Although the weather may have kept away the crowds – and the high winds certainly brought their challenges – stallholders and visitors battled the elements with a surprisingly pleasing result of around £3,000 taken.

As always, Cakes and Toys proved winners, but so did Pandora’s Box – who had some lovely things to sell this year – and many of the other favourite stalls.

No Pimm’s ‘tent’ – but full marks to the Sneath family (with the assistance of Ian Goldsmith) for creating their ‘Pimm’s Garden’ – a delightful resting place as many found – and serving the goodies out of the back of their Volvo as no gazebo would have withstood the gusts!

We were particularly grateful to the many entertainers who carried on despite the weather:  Stix Drummers who marched from the Pier handing out programmes as they went, the girls and boys from Shining Stars Dance Academy, Black Strap Molasses, The Easy Beat Orchestra and Sam Hughes with his amazing tribute to Elton John.

All this was made possible by sound engineer, John Webb, who not only overcame almost impossible conditions to ensure that the show could go on, but also generously donated his fee towards equipment for the Under Ground Theatre and the Friends were delighted to present a cheque to Stephen Rolls-King, the Chair of the Eastbourne Arts Centre.

It is an exciting time for the Devonshire Park Theatre – with the massive project of renovation and restoration of the exterior of the theatre nearing its completion.  Funds raised by The Friends at this Fête will be put towards the money they have already pledged for the redecoration of the foyer.  It should look beautiful when it is completed in October.

For so many years, as many of our members know, much of the work required to the interior of the theatre was put on hold – as there was little point in carrying this out on a leaking building!  Now, with a water-tight and structurally sound theatre, we look forward to a future that will see many more improvements – some with the help of the Friends.

As always, the Friends are grateful to all the organisations, individuals and their members who have contributed so much towards this event.

Posted August 7th, 2016

Edward & Fiona

It was a true pleasure for more than eighty Friends to welcome Fiona Castle OBE – widow of the great entertainer Roy – to the Cumberland Hotel on a warm  August Sunday afternoon to hear her reminiscences about her life: as a young dancer, during her thirty-year marriage and during the twenty plus years since her husband’s premature death from lung cancer.

Born in the Wirral in Cheshire, it was Fiona’s burning desire to become a ballerina – not the future planned for her by her GP father!  At the age of nine she came south to a ballet and theatre arts school in Camberley where she was to meet her life-time friend Olivia Breeze: they were to appear in their first pantomime together in 1956 and have remained friends ever since.

Olivia and Fiona 2

Fiona enjoyed a successful career on stage before marrying Roy Castle and giving up her own professional ambitions to raise their four children.  She shared so many of her memories – the friendships with Eric Morecambe (who is reported to have introduced her to her husband!) and Harry Secombe  amongst others.

In the modest style of the lady – what was not mentioned was her incredible charity works – for which she was awarded the OBE in 2004!


Posted July 24th, 2016

It was a very hot and sultry afternoon when more than 100 Friends gathered in the restaurant at the Langham Hotel in Royal Parade.  Originally, this was to have been an afternoon of reminiscences from Paul Davis and his wife Jacquie of their life together in show business but after Paul tragically lost his battle with cancer last month Edward – wearing his latest hat as Secretary of the British Music Hall Society – stepped up to the plate with his insight into the world of the Music Hall and Variety.

Edward Thomas

Edward’s confident style and encyclopaedic knowledge of the theatre, soon had his audience tapping and laughing away as he guided them through the music from Charles Jolly’s Laughing Policeman to the transition to ‘variety’ – with particular emphasis on the 1957 Royal Variety Performance and the late Eastbourne resident Malcolm Vaughan whose widow, Gaye, is still a ‘Friend’.

A captivated audience

Edward’s many fascinating anecdotal stories, accompanied by musical interludes, kept his audience totally engaged until it was time for tea.

What's for teaHere, the hotel again excelled itself with an offering of several varieties of sandwich and delicious cake – all washed down with a plentiful supply of tea and coffee.

A most enjoyable afternoon was had by all.  The raffle held raised £148 for the Friends’ coffers.

Don’t forget to get your tickets for Sunday’s Swing Session at the Congress Theatre!

Sadly, this year the 17-piece orchestra will be without their founder and leader, Paul Davis, who lost his battle against cancer and died at his home last week.  The Friends are immensely proud to have been able to sponsor this concert throughout its fourteen year history and, of course, have benefitted hugely from the proceeds which have swelled the coffers for expenditure in the Devonshire Park Theatre.

Paul was passionate about this event and during the last weeks of his life made sure that arrangements were in place to enable this concert to go ahead without him.  It will be a fitting and lasting memorial to this talented, popular and much-loved local band leader.    As our former Chairman, Harry Lederman, is reported as saying, “Paul was a very talented musician, excelling at the piano and trombone as well as arranging all the music for the concerts.  He was also a perfect gentleman who was loved and respected by all who knew him.”

Paul and his wife of twenty-nine years, Jacquie Toye, were staunch supporters of the Friends – not only through these Big Band concerts, but Paul’s Trio performed at lunches and our planned event in July when Paul and Jacquie were to share reminiscences of their lives in show business was a sell-out.  Sadly, we will never have a chance to hear these tales!

Paul Davis Trio

The Paul Davis Trio performing for The Friends at the Langham Hotel in April 2015

Detail from wall of photographs behind the trio: Paul & Jacquie

Detail from wall of photographs behind the trio: Paul & Jacquie

The Paul Davis Easybeat Orchestra does, however, live on and we will have the opportunity to hear them play at our Summer Fête on the Western Lawns on Saturday 20 August.

Tickets for the concert on Sunday  June 26 are available from the Box Office on 01323 412000 or on line from www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk and there is a £2 reduction for members of the FDPT.   Do come along to lend your support.

Posted June 11th, 2016

Imagine a beautiful English garden – pink roses clambering over walls, clumps of majestic blue irises, elegant grasses quivering in the slight breeze – add to this the kindness of the weather gods and you have the perfect setting for a Summer Soirée.  Such was the picture as the Friends gathered at the home of their Vice Chairman, Tricia Sneath, and her husband Chris on Saturday to enjoy an evening of chat, music, wine and canapés in their lovely garden.  All the ingredients to make two and a half hours whizz by!

Soiree 5

The team of Social Committee organisers must have been praying all afternoon as what looked like storm clouds loomed over the town, but the balmy evening remained dry as around seventy members sat in groups around the garden chatting away as talented young singer, Laurence Gillians, entertained them with songs – mainly from the Rat Pack repertoire – perfectly judged for the occasion.  A never ending supply of canapés appeared from the kitchen as the ladies were kept very busy – so much so that the five hard working ladies pictured below barely put in an appearance outside!  The two bar tenders, John and Ian, were kept busy too as glasses were topped up at frequent intervals.

Thank you to everyone for a really lovely evening!