Sure this wasn’t written yesterday?

Proving that things never really change, historian and The Lives of Stanley Halls project leader Phillippa Heath reminds us that the values of the ’60s are still relevant today…….

“Without question the (Stanley) Halls fulfil an important social need in the area by providing local organisations with a place to meet and discuss and organise their activities. And this, of course, stimulates a sense of community and an interest in the area and its problems. A live and active community centre is certain to result in more vigorous local organisations and consequently more interest in local government”.

You will be forgiven for thinking that these words were written recently but, in fact, they were recorded nearly 50 years ago.

The Lives of Stanley Halls project is now very much underway and our team of dedicated volunteers is busily researching in archives and starting to conduct oral history interviews. As we embark on bringing the Stanley Halls’ history back to life through the project, among the articles that we have unearthed is this stirring piece in the Croydon Advertiser, November 5th, 1965, which talks about the Halls’ great successes and its hope that Stanley Halls will continue to be central to community life long in the future.

Croydon Advertiser, Friday November 5th, 1965:

“The Stanley Halls in South Norwood Hill puts the lie to the theory that television has virtually destroyed any demand for community centres. For not only are the halls still flourishing after 62 years of life, but their popularity among the local social groups is increasing rapidly. In the past five years the number of bookings at the halls has nearly doubled from about 900 to almost 1600. 

 No doubt a great deal of the credit for the rising popularity of the concert hall goes to Mr James Smith, the manager of the Stanley Halls since July 1960. The son of a West End stage director and himself a cinema manager for 20 years, Mr Smith has worked hard to make the concert hall increasingly attractive to local amateur groups. He has installed new stage lights, re-dressed the stage and put tip-up seats in the balcony. 

At almost any time, on any day of the week except Sunday, something will be going on at the halls, in either one of the two spacious assembly and rehearsal rooms, the committee room, the concert hall or the art gallery. It might be an old-time dancing session organised by a Townswomen’s Guild in one of the assembly rooms, or a rehearsal for a play, or a lecture, or a flower show, or a bazaar. Dog shows, church bazaars, infant welfare clinics, dancing classes, union meetings, political rallies, dances, orchestral concerts, bingo, dog-obedience classes and a score of other events are all held at the Stanley Halls.

Without question the halls fulfil an important social need in the area by providing local organisations with a place to meet and discuss and organise their activities. And this, of course, stimulates a sense of community and an interest in the area and its problems. A live and active community centre is certain to result in more vigorous local organisations and consequently more interest in local government.

Council members who profess concern at the general apathy over local government and then refuse to provide community centres in all areas might do well to re-examine their attitudes. One of the major reasons for the increased use of the Stanley Halls, is that so many other similar halls have been demolished in recent years. The demand is still there but the facilities are disappearing. And if anyone doubts that a demand exists, the constantly increasing popularity of the Stanley Halls is proof that it does.”

Phillippa

Join Phillippa and project volunteers on 12th October for tea, cake and to remember times in Stanley Halls.

What events do you remember attending at the Stanley Halls? Did you attend a dancing class? A dog show? A bazaar? Infant welfare clinics?

If you have any memories of visiting the Halls we would love to hear from you! Please share any recollections with us for The Lives of Stanley Halls project on the form below or email me here stanleyhalllives@gmail.com or drop in and meet us during our Stanley Lives Open Day (Saturday, 12th October: 11 am – 4 pm)

Phillippa Heath

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