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.

melanie-and-mark-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

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 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.

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!

Posted April 16th, 2016

More than 80 members of The Friends  attended the annual dinner at the Cumberland Hotel on Saturday 16 April where they were joined by guests Eastbourne Theatres’ Artistic Director, Chris Jordan and his father, Peter.

Chris Jordan and MC Peter Harwood drawing the raffle

 

Chris did the honours of drawing the raffle – which in true Jordan style he managed to imbue with an element of comedy and drama!  Yes, it is possible to make a raffle draw entertaining!  The raffle raised £174 for the Friends which helps swell the funds waiting to be spent on the interior of the Devonshire Park Theatre once the exterior renovation works are complete.

 

 

The evening was rounded off by a cabaret performed by a particular favourite of The Friends Grant Martins– Eastbourne’s own Grant Martins.

Grant performed many old favourites and, with his cheeky wit and friendly style, soon had his audience singing along.   Sadly, he could not include something he has a particular love for – tap dancing – as the stage was carpeted!  Perhaps next time!

Grant Martins and his audience!

Not long to wait for that as we certainly look forward to seeing him again with the Paul Davis Big Band on 26 June at the Congress Theatre – the proceeds from which will benefit the Friends.

 

 

The Gold Room was filled to near capacity as 162 Friends gathered to listen to retired British Transport Police Officer and local historian, Kevin Gordon, entertain them with the history of policing in Eastbourne and some tales of the shocking and notorious murder cases around the town.

Kevin Gordon

In an age when law enforcement is a given, it is hard to believe that the concept of a policing as it is carried out today is a relatively new one.  Kevin began with a brief history of how policing developed in the UK from feudal times and then covered the establishment of Eastbourne’s own police force in 1891 as a result of public pressure – largely brought about by the Salvation Army!   This newly formed organisation had insisted on marching through the town on Sundays – bands playing and flags waving in contravention of the laws of the time – and the disgruntled people of Eastbourne took to the streets in their thousands to protest and bar their way!

As the title of Kevin’s talk would suggest, Eastbourne had its fair share of shocking murders in the twentieth century!  The first surrounded an attempted burglary in 1912 at the home of Countess Flora Sztaray in South Cliff Avenue which resulted in the shooting dead of Inspector Arthur Walls and the conviction and execution of John Williams for his murder.  Perhaps the most grisly murders were known jointly as “The Crumbles Murders”.  In 1920 the body of a young woman, Irene Munroe, was found buried in the shingle in the area of Eastbourne now better known as Sovereign Harbour.  Four years later the dismembered body of a second young woman, Emily Kaye, was found in a cottage in the same area.  The two cases were unconnected and the perpetrators were brought to trial and found guilty.   The most notorious murder case in Eastbourne, was undoubtedly that of Dr Bodkin Adams, an Eastbourne GP accused of the murder of a number of his patients. Although somewhat unbelievably in 1957 he was acquitted of the two counts of murder he was charged with, there is much suspicion surrounding the trial and its outcome.

Kevin’s talk had been full of interesting facts and figures: for instance, in 1891 just before the formation of the Eastbourne force, the East Sussex Police Force had consisted of 2 inspectors, 6 sergeants and 29 constables – who were paid £1 per week!

The Eastbourne Police Force was finally amalgamated into the East Sussex Constabulary in 1967.

After these tales of murder, the Friends settled down to enjoy a tea of sandwiches and shortbread!

Drawing the raffle

The raffle held that afternoon raised the princely sum of £222.

 

 

Posted February 7th, 2016

Local personality, historian and stalwart of the Friends, Edward Thomas, welcomed a hundred-strong audience of fellow Friends to the Langham Hotel on Sunday 7 February to listen to his conversation with Vicki Goodwin, the latest in a long line of celebrities from stage and variety to make their homes in Eastbourne.  Some of these, including Jan Lynton, Olivia Breeze and Beryl Plummer, were there to support their friend.

Vicki Goodwin and Edward Thomas

Despite the afternoon being dubbed ‘Settle Down Now’ in memory of comedian Ken Goodwin, Vicki – his widow – who moved to Polegate in May 2015, is a formidable singer, dancer and choreographer in her own right.  Born in Abingdon near Oxford, Vicki Lane moved with her parents to Southampton when she was a child.  Performing – particularly dance – was always important to her and she was just fifteen when she was auditioned for the Tiller Girls.  Being the shortest in the line-up was always going to be a challenge for Vicki and realising that ballet was important to her she went on to study at the Southampton School of Ballet and Movement.

Vicki Goodwin in conversation with Edward Thomas

Reminiscences of Vicki’s career read like a veritable Who’s Who of variety:  in 1955 she appeared with one of the country’s best known clowns, Charlie Cairoli, in Little Miss Muffet at the Oxford New Theatre; her first appearance in Eastbourne was with the Fol de Rols in 1957 – at the Winter Garden as, of course, the Congress Theatre was yet to be built!  Here she appeared alongside the likes of Jack Trip and Allen Christie and there followed a Scottish tour with Lesley Crowther and Kathleen West.  These were heady days for variety: Vicki recalled how Lex McLean (probably the last of Scotland’s great Music Hall comedians) packed Glasgow’s Pavilion Theatre with record twenty-four week seasons from May to October.  His shows played twice-nightly (curiously at 6.25 and 8.25!) with a regular change of programme.

Vicki married for the first time on 23 November 1963 – an auspicious day remembered for the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas and for the first broadcast of Dr Who!  Vicki and her husband Dougie Charlton performed in floor shows at London venues, such as the Café Royal, Quaglinos and The Dorchester.  Vicki also appeared with Bruce Forsyth and Adam Faith in Aladdin in Bournemouth; with Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson in a David Croft produced show in Hastings; and in 1973 she played Dandini in pantomime in Birmingham alongside Dickie Henderson (as Buttons) and Arthur Askey (the Dame).  There were also lean times and Vicki recalls making costumes in an attic in Chiswick for 7s 6d an hour – those were the days!  She and Dougie were divorced in 1975 after twelve years of marriage.

She first met Ken Goodwin in Sleeping Beauty at Lewisham Theatre.  Despite his having made it big in The Comedians, Ken had never appeared in pantomime before and Vicki recalls his looking haunted and terrified!  They met again in 1977, shortly after the death of Ken’s first wife, and were married in 1978.  Vicki has many fond memories of performing with Ken – including several times in Eastbourne – and the on-stage antics of his alsation dog, Crosby (named after Bing), and their happy years of marriage.

Scrapbook reminiscences

Ken taught her to ride when she was forty – and at one time they owned seven horses.  When she was 50 he taught her to play tennis, a pastime that she still enjoys.  Sadly their professional life together was to be curtailed in 1993 when Ken was taken ill.  He had been struggling for some time to remember his lines – writing them on his ukulele and the back of his hands.  They retired to their villa in Spain and lived there until 2008 when alzheimers forced their move back to the UK.  The Spanish property was sold and Ken moved into a home in North Wales where he lived for three and a half years before his death in 2012.

 

A life full of stories and interesting anecdotes and the audience were grateful Edward and Vicki for sharing their conversation! The Friends wish her many years of happy life here in Eastbourne.

 

The raffle held raised a profit of £146.

Posted January 24th, 2016

What a better way to spend a dreary Sunday afternoon in January – than to meet up with eighty like-minded people in the Gold Room for a Fun Quiz followed by sandwiches and cake!

Once again Steve and Carol White provided a varied – if at times frustrating – quiz for the ten competing teams to get their collective heads around.  With subjects ranging from history and geography to TV and film and current affairs, with all the usual categories in between, it became quite a tactical affair – when do you play your Joker?  Are you sure the questions are not getting more obscure and trivial as the rounds go on: who had picked up that Frank Bruno had paid £50k for a static caravan on the Isle of Sheppey?  Readers of the Daily Mail!

The runaway winners were Team 5 on table E who finished nearly a round’s worth of points ahead of their nearest rivals.  The eight clever team members are pictured below.

The winning team

The raffle held raised £115.

 

 

Posted December 15th, 2015

This year’s panto, Peter Pan, has something for everyone and Chris Jordan has certainly worked his wonders with this classic J M Barrie story.  Panto traditionalists will be delighted that there is still a place for the good old “dame”  and welcomed back Martyn Knight – this year as Mrs Smee – part of the crew of evil pirate Captain Hook, played by who else than arch-villain Brian Capron!   Then there is the Britain’s Got Talent runners-up Twist and Pulse and add to the mix the flying Peter Pan and Tinkerbell  – plus the Darling children, of course.  No Eastbourne panto would now be complete without Tucker’s brilliantly timed humour in his interaction with the audience and no surprise that he has the children eating out of the palm of his hand, as always!  The depth and variety of talent in this year’s production is amazing. There is so much to take in that seeing it once is probably not enough!   There are also a few surprises along the way, but no spoilers here!

After such an entertaining evening, the Friends were delighted to play host at an after-show get-together for the cast and company in the Winter Garden Bistro.  This has become a traditional part of the Panto each year and one which the many Friends who attend look forward to.  It is always good to see familiar panto faces – such as Tucker and Martyn Knight, and also those who have starred at the DPT in other roles – notably Brian Capron and Peter Pan himself, Ewan Goddard, who has appeared in at least three other productions here in 2015!  But it is also a delight to welcome Ashleigh Drew and Ashley Glazebrook and Glen Murphy (aka Twist & Pulse) and other members of the cast who mingled and chatted with the Friends  – as shown in the pictures below.