Our Southampton Theatre

Mayflower theatre

We are so fortunate to have such a good theatre in Southampton.

Matthew Bourne's ballet Sleeping Beauty
Matthew Bourne’s ballet Sleeping Beauty

Last night I experienced Matthew Bourne‘s interpretation of Tchaikovsky‘s Sleeping Beauty at The Mayflower, in awe and escapist wonder. Life-like puppet babies and swirling punk Valkyries from a touring troupe, filled dark gothic and Nordic-light stage sets. Amazing!

Billed as a gothic romance and choreographed in 2011, this was created at the Twilight years of new-goth interest in vampires, werewolves and Brothers Grimm. I shall write more about this revolutionary choreographer on my other Art So Provident WordPress blog at some point, but I just want to sing the praises of The Mayflower Theatre for pleasing most of the people, most of the time. There are more theatres in Southampton, but The Mayflower is exceptional.

Publicity for WarHorse outside Southampton's Bargate. © Mayflower Theatre
Publicity for WarHorse outside Southampton’s Bargate. © Mayflower Theatre

Je Suis Cecil!

“One of the largest and best loved theatres in the UK with over 2,300 seats. It presents a mixture of spectacular touring musicals – many direct from the West End – dance, opera, drama and ballet through to comedy and pantomime. The theatre has a rich history and is loved by South Coast communities, providing an historic landmark in the city. The programme of productions and events is jam packed all through the year and it boasts sell out performances  regularly.” – A quote from Thomas Miller, whose creative company rebranded the Mayflower Theatre in 2013.

More traditional colours when it was The Gaumont Theatre
More traditional colours when it was The Gaumont Theatre
These days The Mayflower Theatre is painted in clashing colours.
These days The Mayflower Theatre is painted in clashing colours.
Queuing for cinema tickets when it was known as The Empire Theatre
Queuing for tickets when it was known as The Empire

It was first opened in 1928 as The Empire. With the popularity of ‘talkies’ this architectural wonder, became more used as a cinema by 1942 when it was under the helm of the Gaumont Picture Corporation.

Its Gaumont years, when it was taken over by The Rank Organisation (1950-1986) is when I remember the theatre most. It was still mainly a cinema then (three films were shown continually on Saturdays throughout the day) but also used for plays, musicals and concerts. Everyone from The Rolling Stones to The Beatles have performed here alongside local operetta and national opera societies.

The Beatles sat in the stalls of The Gaumont. Big names from Buddy Holly, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Led Zeplin all performed here. Top performers were always staged here.
The Beatles sat in the stalls of The Gaumont. Big names from Buddy Holly, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, The Beach Boys all performed here. Top acts performed here regularly.
Ticket for punk band Siouxie and the Banshees 1982).
Ticket for punk band Siouxie and the Banshees, 1982.

 

 

 

I play Nurse advising Juliet. Photo taken from the wings of the Gaumont Theatre Southampton during a performance of Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet'
I play Nurse advising Juliet. Photo taken from the wings of the Gaumont Theatre Southampton during a performance of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local societies used the theatre too. At the age of 15 years, I played the go-between role as Nurse to Juliet in Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet. The Mayor of Southampton came to see our Deanery School production at the smaller Nuffield Theatre and thought it was so professional that he organised a restaging of it at The Gaumont. It was sold-out on each of the three performances.

There were two applications to turn the theatre into a bingo hall; one in 1970 and another in 1983. The public objected strongly and there were physical protests at both attempts.

The theatre was reopened in 1987 as The Mayflower. It is now run by an independent trust as a national touring house.

Many talented locals, including children, rehearse as chorus roles to the main touring acts.

The theatre is reportedly haunted by the ghost of an old man who has been seen sitting backstage in a wicker chair.

To read more about its heritage or to book shows visit: https://www.mayflower.org.uk/About_Us/Heritage

Pixie Lott / Mayflower billboard © Southampton Old Lady
Pixie Lott / Mayflower billboard © Southampton Old Lady

 

 

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Craig ‘Flipping’ David

Craig David sings at St Mary's Stadium while sporting a Southampton Football Club's striped shirt
Craig David sings at St Mary’s Stadium while sporting a Southampton FC red & white, striped shirt

Looking forward to being entertained by Craig David at Southampton’s Common People Festival this May. The British media are full of his “come-back” now that he has hit the Top 20 with a new single, When The Bassline Drops – a collaboration with Big Narstie. David suffered bad image problems after comedian Leigh Francis made fun of his Bo Selecta image – but for us in Southampton, he has never been away.

I was at school with both his talented parents, George and Tina. They still live here and he sees them regularly. His performances in Southampton always sell-out. There is so much love for him here.

Read more about it: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-35483863  Watch him on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uPdPpetOSJ8

Reunion 2015

Sue Man and George David hand out samosas.
Sue Man (organiser) and George David (Ebony Rocker) hand out samosas.
Some of the young ones who I did not know but now do.
Some of the young ones who I did not know but now do.

I went to my school’s reunion. It was open to any pupil or teacher from any year and held at the Juniper Berry, an historical pub in the centre of Southampton.  The Deanery School was the first multi-culltural school in the South outside London.  There are no Sotonians that I know living in my neighbourhood. In fact, I rarely hear people even speak in English during the long summers until some 42,000 students arrive for their autumn term.  So it was wonderful to meet up with so many diverse races of people not only speaking my language but with Southampton accents and local slang. Ages ranged from 40 to 80 years of age. We conversed all evening about our school traditions what people are doing now and those that have passed away.

SOLDeanery1

Jenny and Mr Muggridge (Technical Drawing & Careers)
Jenny and Mr Muggridge (Technical Drawing & Careers)

Whole families came to the reunion. Each had attend the school throughout their generation. Because it was small and because we all joined in out-of-school activities we were familiar with each other. Many married their childhood sweet-hearts.

The Deanery concentrated on the Individual, it honed in on our abilities and seemed to bring out the best of each one us, regardless of intelligence or ability to pass exams. The invisible curriculum was just as important to us as the main one. Many ex-pupils run their own businesses or work for companies that take them all over the world, particularly at sea – with so many stories from other countries it must have given us an appetite to travel.

 

Anne McCarthy MBE (a French teacher) and Jon
Anne McCarthy MBE (a French teacher) and Jon
Lady Sovereign & Jim Bull
Lady Sovereign & Jim Bull
Cleo and Robbie
Cleo and Robbie

 

The Deanery School, 1930 -1989

Continue below for the history of the rise and fall of The Deanery School….

The Deanery was a mixed-sex secondary school for the central community; ages 11-16 taught over 5 years. Pupils could leave school at the age of 15 when I attended, but changed to the age of 16 with an option of going on to a Further Education College until the age of 18.

It was the first multi-cultural school in the South outside of London. Southampton, being a port city, has always had variety of diverse communities, all of which are valued and respected, as I have explained in previous posts.

When I attended, white English people were in a minority at the school. In my year, there were a great many Hindus  Muslims, some Buddhists and a few Jewish, although the majority were Christian. The biggest cultural group of people were first to third generation Indian, not only from India but from what is now Pakistan, and other parts of Asia including places like Fiji and from Africa (North and South). In my year we also had first to third generations of Polish, Spanish, Italian, Irish, Chinese (from Vietnam and Hong Kong), West Indies: Jamaica, Barbados (white and black), Virgin Islands, Dutch, Cypriots (Turkish and Greek), Hungarians and Maltese. Nearly all could speak English before they started at the school.

Multi-cultural schools are quite normal in cities now, throughout Europe. But at that time they were rare and my school was a great fascination for others, especially for the media, politicians, sociologists and those with ‘melting pot’ theories. We filled out endless surveys and felt as though we were being watched. We had a strict school uniform that included options for turbans and loose leggings (to wear underneath a skirt). There were no hats or other items that covered the head or face as these were rarely seen in the community then and certainly not on children. In the Summer boys could wear shorts (but none did; they weren’t cool) and girls could wear any attire so long as it was red and white and modest.

As the number of educational subject increased, The Deanery expanded to many other sites spread out over central Southampton. The main site was Marsh Lane, next to St Mary’s Church, and was originally built to educate children from the workhouse. It is now a block of flats. As the community grew, the school expanded to the other half of the building that housed Southampton College of Art until 1970 when the art department moved to a new building in East Park (now part of Solent University). The school also took over The Central Boys School building in Argyle Road, Nicholstown, mainly for teaching the 4th and 5th years. Nissan huts were added to the playgrounds. I lived nearer to this site (which is now a Hindu temple). It had a separate dinner hall about a 10 minute walk away in Covelly Road, where, unlike the food at Marsh Lane, lunch time meals were cooked on the premises. Due to the many different religious beliefs regarding meat, there was a lovely choice on the menu. That was rare in England in my day. The meals were some of the best I had ever tried. In the evenings this hall operated as The Boys Club. Opened by famous crooner Frankie Vaughn, who had been an Italian immigrant. He supported boys clubs, which opened up all over England and Wales, to keep boys off the streets and away from gangs.

Another site was Latimer Street off Oxford Street (Now trendy apartments and restaurants). This is where all the domestic science and needlework took place. In my day this was only for girls, while boys did wood and metal work. Many subjects were segregated until the late 1970s. I had my first and only ever fight in the corridor here. My head was thrown against a row of coat pegs by the school bully. It was generally a peaceful school, so this caused an outrage. There was blood everywhere, I’ll never forget it.

There was also Site 4, which was an inner-city farm. Though I never went there and Cross House Hard where I learned not only sailing skills, but how to repair boats and sails.The school  had its own launch on the river. We also used the Council swimming pool (now the Grand Harbour Hotel) at the Town Quay, the sports centre north of the town, the cricket pitches in Hoglands Park and The Common for all sorts of sports activities.

It was normal to walk through the city for 2-3 miles between lessons. As traffic increased it became more dangerous. Later the school could not match the range of subjects that the new comprehensive schools could. The Deanery School was forced to close in 1989.

The Bells of St Marys…

St.MarysChurchBells1

How many people realise that “The Bells of St Mary’s” that favourite song that American’s sing at Christmas, was really about the bells in Autumn at St Mary’s Church in Southampton?

Or that The Saints (Southampton footballers) got their name as the first team were bell ringers and choristers at St Mary’s Church?

It is a wonderful gothic church. The centuries-old grave stones are retained as walls and pathways. Most walk through the church yard as a short cut between Kingsland Square Market or Hoglands park to the Southampton City College or St Mary’s Football Stadium.

The Deanery School, where I went, and the vicarage used to be opposite and school fights took place in the church yard. Our school’s end of term services took place here. I read at the eagle pulpit. The school is now flats and halls of residences. Most seem only to use the church yard just as a car park these days.

The Bells of St Mary’s refers to the beautiful peal of bells from the Church that used to heard from the Docks, and her spire could be seen from the Port. Merchant seamen would then head up St Mary’s Street (once known as Love Lane) and meet up with their loved ones in the church yard.

Douglas Furber (13 May 1885 – 20 February 1961) was a British lyricist and playwright. Following a visit to St Mary’s with composer A. Emmett for the installation of the 8 bells (donated by a widow in memory of her husband) the men wrote the song, which was published in 1917. In 1945, Bing Crosby had a hit with “The Bells of St. Mary’s” after it was used as the title song to the film of the same name and has since been recorded by many other artistes (Chet Atkins – Perry Como – Bing Crosby – Sheryl Crow – The Drifters – Clyde McPhatter – Aaron Neville – Leo Sayer – Andy Williams – my favourite versions by Sam Cooke, Vera Lynne, Gordon MacRae).

The bells of St. Mary’s

Ah, hear they are calling

The young loves, the true loves

Who come from the sea

And so my beloved
When red leaves are falling
The love bells shall ring out, ring out

For you and me

The bells of St. Mary’s

Ah, hear they are calling

The young loves, the true loves

Who come from the sea

And so my beloved
When red leaves are falling
The love bells shall ring out, ring out

For you and me

Songwriters:
ADAMS, A. EMMETT/FURBER, DOUGLAS

Published by  Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

To hear the song visit this YouTube site https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaoqV9OaTfo

To hear the peal of bells visit this YouTube site:

To watch the famous film with Bing Cosby and Ingrid Bergman go to this site:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APRNe_3tzdg

(see Wikipedia for more info on this and the church)

Bells St MarysThe bells were brought by train to the station at Southampton Docks, then transported to St Mary’s Church by horse and cart. A big procession lined the streets to see this. It was famous.

St Mary's Church Yard PC

St Marys Church corner

 

P1100904  P1100906

P1100910  P1100908  St Marys Church 7  St Marys Church4   St Marys Church 6

St Mary’s Church is mentioned towards the end of this crowd funder project for an educational game about The Titanic which you can see on You Tube: 

TITANIC GAME http://www.IGG:ME?AT/TITANIC GAME