The saga of the toilet door and the dad in the bikini!

A sign in the ladies’ loos at Stanley Halls gets a first blog mention. Gentlemen readers, if you want to see it for yourselves, you’ll have to come to the Open Day this weekend to avoid arrest…

As the Open Day draws near – Saturday, 10 until 4, free cake and stuff –  a very interesting communication rattles by the SPI Communications hub.

At the end of this fascinating piece from Alison Morgan – don’t cheat and skip to the end! – are some interesting and perfectly understandable concerns. Carol Clapperton, our woman in charge of the ladies’ toilets – we said don’t cheat and skip to the end!! – will address them. 

Read on…

My name is Alison Morgan and I am afraid I cannot be present on Saturday but I have masses of memories of the Stanley Halls. It was in my blood as my mum and her parents lived at 92, South Norwood Hill and my mum had her 21st birthday party there.

My first introduction was as a child, being taken to the downstairs assembly room for a clinic for children where we were given free orange juice and cod liver oil and babies were weighed. It was just like Call the Midwife.

Then I got taken when I was four or five to my first ballet class on a Saturday morning in the upstairs assembly room – the ballet school was there for many years and we had shows in the main Hall. I also remember my grandma performing there with the Townswomen’s guild in a review.

But my abiding love for the Halls is based on St Marks’ pantomime. My father was one of the original members. There is a good little book out on the players with loads of photos of the Halls) and it was held in one or two venues before going to Stanley Halls, where it recently celebrated 50 years of St Marks’ panto.

It was a really big undertaking and local children got really excited about the panto coming. It was held over three weekends starting about the 2ndor 3rd week in January. The Hall was all decked out and we sold refreshments and sweets. The standard was superb as we always had excellent live musicians. Some of the knockabout scenes, which always descended into a race round the audience, were legendary.  Children were invited to go on the stage for the final song with sometimes 50 people on there. We packed in the all the Cubs and Brownies in the matinees.

I was in early as a schoolchild in Babes in the Wood with my dad, Alan Morgan, as the dame. You’ve never really lived until you’ve seen your rather hairy dad in a bikini and bubble bath singing “I enjoy being a dame!”

We also had fantastic animals that were made from scratch – the cow, the goose. These were all made by my friend Sheila’s dad Jim Clements. They were so good that he was invited onto Blue Peter twice to show them off (also in the book). They are still being loaned to professional companies today .

I played some parts but gradually drifted away to university. But I came back later and did a lot of front of house – which is why I am so passionate about the back of the ladies’ toilet door, the sign saying ‘Ladies look after your handbags’. Have a look to see what I mean again about location work. Even if the toilets have to be updated – keep the door somewhere.

In my various roles I have been all over the building – the dressing rooms and other rooms underground, and the back passage. (NB that should be covered again in case the cast wish to enter from the back of the hall. Not much fun in the pouring rain.) I remember the scenery dock , the hooks at the back to load heavy objects in, the link between backstage and the upstairs assembly room, the flats downstairs.  I could go on – as I said the only problem is that I am so attached to the building the idea of any modernisation leaves me with a very heavy heart because to me it is perfect.

One of the reasons I am very opposed to any modernisation of the Halls is partly sentimentality on my part but also because I think we should be able to hire it out a lot for locations (the main Hall as well). An awful lot of drama now in both films and TV is set in the past and venues like this are gold dust.

Carol’s note: The signs and original features will all be retained. Necessary works been carried out by Croydon Council, particularly regarding the electrical system, and other necessary 21st Century unobtrusive features have been added. But, have no fear, the intention is to renovate, not reinvent!

As for a film location, Khris has shown a film-maker around only on Saturday, so watch this space…

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One comment

  1. SPI Team

    Great how these stories get people talking, and in the course of matters new information crops up. So thanks to Chris Smith-Gillard from St Mark’s Players for advising that Jim Clements is in fact Bob Clemens (sorry Bob). Chris is the chairman and musical director of St Mark’s Players and has been a member since 1974 and is also the author of the excellent little book with lots of photos and memories back to 1959 called ‘Thanks for the Memories’. So share all Chris – bet there are some great photos to share in another blog post.

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