THE 1930s LEIGH PLAYHOUSE
After an article last month about the Tonbridge Playhouse, what about the Leigh Playhouse three hundred and thirty years later?
In the 1930s the Leigh Scouts were very active. They were organized by Mr (Herbert) Russell who lived at South View on the Green and Miss (Daisy) Walton who lived at Great Barnetts.
There was the annual camp at Studland Bay Dorset – which often had a few boys from the Tudeley/Capel Scouts. Maurice Martin remembers the last one in 1939, just after the war had been declared, when on the evening journey home they were told to pull down all the blinds on the train in case they became a target for the enemy.
But Maurice Martin also remembers the Gang Shows that Leigh Scouts put on in the Large Village Hall each year from the mid-1930s. It all started when the Scouts were taken to Maidstone to see the famous “Gang Show” which was organised all over the country by Ralph Reader. It featured young people singing and doing sketches and Mr Russell and Miss Walton decided to adopt the formula for Leigh.
At that time the large ViIlage Hall had a stage which could be erected at the Legion Hall end, complete with footlights and rather old green curtains (tended by Miss Mills who for many years ran the Sunday School).
The performance that Maurice Martin remembers from nearly eighty years ago – when he was in any case rather young – started with the Scouts lined up in a row singing:
We are riding along on the crest of a wave
And the sun is in the sky . . .
But the act that Maurice particularly remembers came next. Six boys – representing a motor bus – were on stage under a large blanket. One of the older scouts arrived with a starting handle and wound away while the ‘bus’ shuddered. It failed to start but there was an explosion. One of the back tyres had “punctured” and the bus sagged in the appropriate place. No sooner was it mended, than there was another explosion/puncture. And so on.
“It wasn’t very good, I expect, but to be honest it’s the only sketch I can remember”, says Maurice. “But there were lots of songs – often with Miss Crawford – Betty Crawford – leading the way for Roy Brooker, Dick Wood (Dick had a great voice), Harry Hitchcock, Spooks Lambert from The Square, and lots of others, including me, all doing our bit”.
The stage was used well after the War. Perhaps it’s sad that there’s no longer a modern version? Might it get Leigh drama and musical events going again? It happened at The Globe.
Parish Magazine article: June 2013: by Chris Rowley and Maurice Martin