First steps on to a huge stage

Phillippa Heath, The Lives of Stanley Halls Project Coordinator introduces us to Jane Nicholl’s first steps on to the stage.

On Saturday, 12th October, Stanley Halls opened its doors to the residents of South Norwood for a Stanley Lives Open Day and attracted over 60 visitors who toured the building and reminisced over tea and cake about their memories of visiting Stanley Halls. All of these recollections will form the basis of The Lives of Stanley Halls exhibition which will be on display in the Halls from December 4th and then tour around community venues in the new year. But, to whet your appetite, here are the type of fascinating recollections that you can expect to discover.

Meet Jane Nicholl, who first visited the Halls in 1953 at the tender age of two and a half years old, and recalls these early memories with project volunteers, Anne, Sharon and Jan, and SPI trustee Andrew Nelson.

Jane Nicholl

Jane Nicholl remembering the first time she was on the Concert Hall stage.
Image: Angie Davila

“The first time I came to the Halls I was about two and a half; it was 1953 and I was part of a ballet class in the area and we did a performance and we dressed in little swimming costumes and our towels. That is my first memory.”

“Our mothers all took us into the changing rooms back in the Halls. It was freezing because we were all performing in our swimming costumes and we all had to be huddled in our woollen cardigans until the actual performance took place. I can remember it being absolutely freezing cold and going out to this huge stage which seemed so massive at the time. Massive for a small child. I can remember we all waved our towels around and I dropped my towel and brought shame on the family…. Yes I remember them being all frosty afterwards because I dropped the towel. I think it must have been Autumn, Winter or Spring because it was so cold.”


Were you aware of people watching you?

“Yes but for some reason I wasn’t daunted by it. I felt quite separated because the stage lights were on so I think at the time you felt separated from the audience and it didn’t feel quite real, it was like I was looking out at them rather than them sitting looking at you”.

“The music was played on the piano by a woman – it always seems to be women who played in those days – this who had an enormous bosom. It was always plump women with enormous bosoms playing away on the piano….! And funnily enough my Dad had a piano business in Crystal Palace and he supplied the piano”.

Stanley Halls was one of those places that I can always remember….. it’s always been there, it’s always been a landmark. Over the years it got into more of a state of decay but it’s always been there for performances, it’s a landmark, everybody knows it”.


What events do you remember attending at the Stanley Halls? Did you take part in a dancing performance? Did you attend a dog show or an infant welfare clinic? If you can recall visiting the Halls we would love to hear from you! (



  1. Roy SHEPARD

    This is great. The Halls are redolent with peoples’ lives and memories. Roy Shepard

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