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Archive for the month “November, 2020”

Vesta Tilley Centre Under Threat in Worcester

The Victorian Society is the latest national body calling for Worcester City Council to reject Lowesmoor redevelopment plans. These would demolish historic buildings in a conservation area including a former music hall long associated with the male impersonating star, Vesta Tilley. The Society is in the process of submitting listing applications to help ensure their survival. 

The controversial plans would destroy many of Lowesmoor’s low-rise buildings including Vesta Tilley House and the locally-listed Bridge Inn – to make way for an incongruously large development with towers of up to 12 storeys in the city’s canal conservation area. The plans would also see remaining historic buildings such as the handsome ‘Port Master’s’ house harmed by extremely insensitive alterations.

The proposed buildings are grossly out of scale with the surrounding area and the Cathedral city’s low-rise skyline. The rich history of the former music hall, and its strong links with a locally born international star, should be respected and the historic fabric protected. Historic England, the government’s heritage adviser, has warned that the plans entail: ‘the loss of a significant number of buildings which form part of the city’s character and the construction of substantial buildings at odds with that character. This exposes a disregard for Worcester’s historic environment. Law and government policy provide strong protections to historic buildings and places designated as heritage assets. These proposals are at odds with those protections’.

Joe O’Donnell, Victorian Society Director, said: ‘The Victorian Society objects in the strongest possible terms to these proposals. The sensitive redevelopment of Lowesmoor canal basin could preserve and enhance the conservation area’s character. However, the current proposals are as far away from sensitive as it is possible to get. Since the 1980s Lowesmoor has seen a gradual erosion of historic buildings. Worcester should learn from its past and cherish historic buildings like this increasingly rare former music hall. This potential tourist attraction should not be swept away for buildings which, in due course, are likely to become as hated for their inappropriate location as Elgar House in front of Shrub Hill station.’ 

Worcester City Council must refuse permission for this damaging scheme if it is serious about its commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2030. Demolishing these historic buildings would be hugely wasteful of their embodied carbon and show a total disregard for that pledge. Any subsequent redevelopment plans should incorporate Lowesmoor’s historic buildings for tourists and future generations to enjoy.

Vesta Tilley House was built as the New Concert Hall in 1869 and became a Salvation Army Citadel in 1881. Its demolition would be a significant loss. It is nationally significant as a rare example of an early purpose-built music hall. The building’s national value is further increased because of its association with Vesta Tilley, the internationally famous music hall star born in the city. Vesta Tilley was one of the most famous male impersonators of her era and is said to have been the highest-earning woman in the 1890s. The Vesta Tilley Trail, published by Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service, notes that the threatened former music hall was pivotal in Vesta Tilley’s development on the stage. The Victorian Society is in the process of submitting a listing application to prevent the destruction of this rare survival.

A petition has been launched to stop these destructive plans going ahead.

Famous People You’ve Never Heard Of – Podcasts

The Blue Fire Theatre Company are producing a series of podcasts entitled Famous People You’ve Never Heard Of. The first podcast features a conversation with BMHS member David Slattery-Christy who tells the story of his relative Reg Pratley. This is a tale of a young man’s love affair with the travelling fairgrounds in the early years of the 20th Century.

To listen to the podcast, click on the link below:

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/famous-people-youve-never-heard-of/id1539296569

Lily Morris And Her World: A Zoom presentation on Thursday 26th November

Thurs 26 November – 7.30pm

LILY MORRIS AND HER WORLD

A Talk via Zoom presented by Keith Fawkes and Richard Norman

A reprise of the successful and entertaining illustrated talk previously presented live to the BMHS.

The log in details for this talk will be sent to all BMHS members on email on Thursday 19th November.

Fans of famous music hall performers will be familiar with cockney styled comedienne

Lily Morris (1882-1952) noted for her songs

Why Am I Always The Bridesmaid? and Don’t Have Any More, Missus Moore.

An artiste who toured the halls for over fifty years, made many gramophone records and appeared in several films.

Sadly she fell ill whilst touring in the long-running show Thanks For The Memory and had to withdraw.

She never recovered her full health and died in 1952.

Lily Morris And Her World is an illustrated talk of her career with songs and film clips.

This is the first time that this amazing performer has been researched and presented for public interest.

This is a ‘free event’ but donations are welcome to help cover the running costs of the event and support the society and artistes who present the events. Donations can be made by PayPal, Credit/Debit cards via our website at

http://www.britishmusichallsociety.com/donations.html

British Music Hall Society’s New President

The British Music Hall Society is delighted to announce that Paul O’Grady has agreed to become their new President with effect from 1 January 2021. The role of President was previously held by Roy Hudd who died in March 2020.

Paul O’Grady said:

‘Im honoured to be the new President of the British Music Hall Society. Im extremely flattered to be taking on the mantle of the late great Roy Hudd and realise that Ive got big shoes to fill. Ive always been a huge fan of Music Hall ever since the day at the ripe old age of nine when I came across an LP called Late Joys, from The Players’ Theatre. Listening to it was a revelation but my favourite turn was Stella Moray singing She Was Poor But She Was Honest.I learned the words and Ive been singing it ever since. It used to go down very well at the Hackney Empire when I was giving it my Lily Savage on a Saturday night but not so well with my Mother when Id belt it out on my way home from church.’

Chairman of the British Music Hall Society (“BMHS”) Adam Borzone said:

‘Paul started his career in a world not dissimilar to music hall as a ‘female impersonator.’ He performed at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, only a stone’s throw away from Charles Morton’s Canterbury Music Hall which is often seen as the place where music hall really established itself. We are thrilled that he has agreed to become our President and look forward to welcoming him at future events.’

Music Hall was one of the most popular forms of affordable British theatrical entertainment. It was popular from the early Victorian era, fading away after 1918 and re-branded as ‘Variety.’ The influences of this era of popular entertainment are still very present today in shows like ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, pantomime, stand up, drag and sketch comedy.

Wyn Calvin on The Panto Podcast

The Welsh Prince of Laughter, Wyn Calvin is the guest of Hayden Parker for this week’s episode of The Panto Podcast. Recorded in August, a week before his 95th birthday, Wyn tells how he got started in the business, sharing some of his wonderful stories and advice for performers. 

Hayden would like to thank Wyn and his wife Carole for their hospitality and to David Lloyd-Jones for making this interview possible. 

It’s FREE to listen to on Apple Podcasts – tiny.cc/noc0lz YouTube (with subtitles) – tiny.cc/3x0h9ySpotify – tiny.cc/hatl8yTuneIn – tiny.cc/nvj97y iHeartRadio – tiny.cc/uyiaaz And you can even say ‘Alexa play The Panto Podcast’ to your Amazon Echo device (or any smart speaker)

Winifred Atwell Honoured With A Black Plaque

A black plaque honouring the late pianist Winifred Atwell has been unveiled at the former site of a hair salon she owned in south London.

The sign was put up by the Nubian Jak Community Trust as part of a project to recognise historically significant black people.

The musician achieved great success in the 1950s playing boogie-woogie and topped the charts with her Christmas song Let’s Have Another Party, as well as The Poor People Of Paris.

The Trinidadian, who died in 1983, was reportedly the first black musician to top the UK charts.The plaque was unveiled at the site of a hair salon which she used to own in Chaucer Road, Brixton, according to the Nubiyan Jack Community Trust.

Jak Beula, who founded the organisation, said Atwell was “a remarkable woman” and an “extraordinarily talented individual”.“You are talking about a woman who transcended colour whose talent took her all around the world,” he added.

The black plaque put up on Friday 6th November will later be replaced with a permanent blue memorial.

Vera Lynn at the BBC on BBC4 8th November

The BBC celebrates the ‘Forces Sweetheart’ with a look back through the archives at some of her favourite performances and biggest hits including duets with Harry Secombe, Des O’Connor and Bing Crosby and an unforgettable appearance on The Morecambe And Wise Show. It will be screened on BBC 4 on Sunday 8th November at 9.10pm.

Before that, at 8.10pm, BBC 4 will repeat the documentary on Vera, called Vera Lynn: We’ll Meet Again.

Doddy Day – 7th November

To mark what would have been Sir Ken Dodd’s birthday weekend, the Comedy Trust has organised a Doddy Day. For more information go to

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