Markhouse Drama Club
& The Cyril Malyon Memorial Fund
The Markhouse Drama Club manages the Memorabilia Website for, and maintains links between, former members of the Markhouse Drama Club that was based at Markhouse Secondary Modern School, Walthamstow, from 1955 to 1977
APRIL 2020 NEWSLETTER
CMMF Project in Tendring – MDC Members – Website Additions & Layout – Catching up with friends
Whilst this Newsletter has ‘come out’ at the time intended, the content is far from what was originally anticipated – partly because of the emerging Covid 19 situation that we all now find ourselves in, but more so because the following pages now have to convey the news of the sad and untimely loss of some of our number – Sue Aylott, Phil Pepperell and Chris Riches.
The other Newsletter items include an update on our CMMF Performing Arts Projects, news of some former members and details of changes to the website’s layout – plus of course, the latest batch of ‘new’ memorabilia that has been added to the website.
Well – it started – but didn’t quite finish!
As ‘lock down’ leads to a last minute postponement of our CMMF Performing Arts Project!
This latest Newsletter was scheduled to report on the anticipated completion of our CMMF Performing Arts Project at Tendring College – which was certainly looking to be yet another enjoyable and successful experience for the young people involved; as well as getting us into double figures – as our 10th project!
However, ‘all the best laid plans’ etc – which had no inkling of the circumstances in which we all now find ourselves regarding Covid-19.
The required ‘link’ for this project was through Norma and Phil Pepperell whose nephew, the Headmaster at the Tendering Technical Collegiate, was keen to see our potential offer of funding as being a way in which his Drama Department might tackle something quite different and innovative. After some initial discussion with the Collegiate they came up with the idea of creating a devised piece of drama around knife crime; therefore an issue which, regrettably, is still very much a serious and worrying concern
As with our other projects, we felt this to be an appropriate way of using drama to make a positive impact on the lives of young people and, particularly so, because of the intention to stage the resulting play, ‘Pocket Knife’, both in the College and in a number of other local schools. This was very much in keeping with how Denis & June Heath’s son Philip used the earlier CMMF ‘Transition Project’ to help younger children, particularly those with special needs, who were about to make the often formidable step from Primary to Secondary Education
The project began in the late autumn with two initial ‘in house’ performances scheduled for mid March; followed by the outreach performances at local schools in April. Unfortunately, the self-isolation of the project leaders husband led to the cancellation of the performances – just 2 days before the curtain was due to be raised – followed, not unexpectedly, just 4 days later with the closure of the College.
So, an unavoidable scenario, but the final performance phase of the project will be re-scheduled – anon!
However, whilst clearly a disappointing situation it is, at least, possible to give an encouraging ‘interim report’ on the overall project and to confirm that it got off to a really good start – as Sue Aylott and Dave Morgan reported from their meeting with the cast shortly before the Christmas break. Both were impressed by their enthusiasm and understanding of the issues they were dealing with; also of the impact that they were hoping to make with the other young people who would see the actual performances.
Some further, and more recent feedback, has been from the Headmaster, Norma and Phil’s nephew who, having seen the final rehearsals, described these as not only well-presented, but ‘very powerful’
So, clearly something to look forward to both seeing and reporting upon later in the year.
A CMMF inspired Project?
One potential project that we were hoping to see come to fruition has been in John Oatham’s home village of Mayland where he had, over the past couple of years, been trying to develop a Youth Drama Group. With much prompting and encouragement from John, the Parish Council decided to build a stage within their premises and, along with their growing interest in his ideas, began the task of trying to find the right person to run the group – which, at least in its initial phase, was the part of the overall project that we were considering for giving CMMF financial support.
Unfortunately, finding a person to exactly fit this ‘remit’ proved difficult, although John’s continued efforts did eventually bear fruit – albeit from a drama tutor with a much broader interest in terms of ages. As a result the Mayland Amateur Drama Society was formed in the Autumn and whilst they got well under way with their first production over the festive period, their ‘all ages’ membership inevitably took them outside of our remit for any direct financial support. Whilst just a little disappointing that John’s work did not result in a Youth Drama Group, his overall aim of establishing this type of opportunity in his village has been fulfilled and doubtless some young people will be involved in the future – as indeed a few were in their first production.
However, perhaps we can claim a ‘sort of CMMF inspired’ new group that would not have started if it had not been initiated through John’s MDC experience and the potential opportunity of CMMF funding – hence our thought that we might ‘leave the door a bit open’ (whilst we still have funds) if they want to do something at a later stage that is aimed specifically at their local young people. Perhaps even to develop a youth section!
Interestingly, and certainly worth a mention here, the conversion of the hall into a theatre, including some lighting equipment also instigated via ex MDC sources, looked remarkably like our own ‘Little Theatre’ at Markhouse. Also, and fittingly for the time of year and all of John’s efforts, the production was a Pantomime – what else could it have been!
We also thought the above Logo that the group have adopted is, as you might agree, very ‘Markhouse’ – e.g. M.A.D – as was, very pleasingly, some of their Panto slapstick. Oh yes it was!!!!
Memories of MDC Members
The Newsletter’s tributes to Sue Aylott (Paker), Phil Pepperell and Chris Riches can now be seen in the ‘Memories Page’ of the Website
NEW WEBSITE MEMORABILIA – LATEST ADDITIONS
After about a 2 year plus stint, the search through the 1955/77 Guardian Archives is now complete; although whether or not every piece of memorabilia has been seen, copied and placed in the website is, of course, another question – well, not quite a ‘question’ – more of a statement of fact, as a recent visit to the British Library has proven!
Despite even just a few ‘oversights’, we may well feel pleased with the fairly substantial coverage that we now have of our productions; similarly with those of the Walthamstow Youth Speaks Competitions, Essex Drama Festivals and the range of information about the school, its pupils and staff.
However, even a brief review of our current listing shows a few noticeable gaps when productions must have taken place. So the strategy is now to research those periods again; both in the Walthamstow Guardian and in the Walthamstow Independent – albeit that we know that the latter’s coverage of Drama was not particular extensive.
Hopefully this may help us date some of the plays that we already know to have been staged, but where our collection of scripts and/or programmes give no clue to this particular information- other than that all those listed at the end of the production pages are certainly in the post school era from 1966 onwards. At the other end of our listing, from when the Drama Club started in 1955 and for the following few years, there are also some noticeable gaps in relation to the Essex Youth Drama Festivals and the Walthamstow/Essex Youth Speaks Competitions. The Drama Club’s entry into both these competitions, albeit sometimes in disguise as Marsh Street Youth Centre, were not just a regular occurrence, but also a very successful one. So, again we hope that the next round of searches might just fill in the last few gaps in this part of our history.
Of course, the search of sheds, attics and suitcases of old school stuff might still be a source of finding ‘new’ memorabilia and, just to prove this possible, thanks to Dorothy Tinnams (Austin) & Gary Woods, a few ‘so found’ photographs have been added with this current batch. So – nudge nudge – for another look around – just in case!
Plus a Bit of a Revamp!
At the same time as reviewing the website’s content we also decided to try to make some improvements in its layout; particularly the Homepage as this gives the first impression to anyone suddenly deciding to browse for some of their teenage interests etc. Some small alterations have therefore been made to the ‘page names’ and their location, whilst the main change has been with adding a series of photographs to the most important Homepage links – so hopefully more eye catching and interesting. Have a look and let us know what you think.
In terms of future plans, one intention is to develop this collage of MDC former members that has been used for the link to the websites ’Memories’ page
The hope is that this will then widen the scope of the ‘Memories’ pages to include, at least initially, a picture gallery of the former members on the current mailing list. In the longer term, we hope to use our existing photographic memorabilia to extend this to include as many former members as possible. This may even be in a ‘then and now’ format using the photographs from our collection of plays and those from the Re-Unions respectively. Hopefully this might provide some more interesting content to the website and even enable the occasional browser to see if they can still recognised some of their former friends
Subject to finding some more information about these and being able to fill the ‘gaps’ mentioned above, we will look to put some form of feature page together for each of these parts of our history. The other parts of the website that we hope we might, in the longer term, be able to revamp and do a bit more with, relates to the Drama Club’s early involvement in the Walthamstow Youth Speaks Competitions and the Essex Youth Drama Festivals
So watch this space – but probably not before Xmas time or next year!
A ‘Wonderful Website’ – Plus a bit about Mr M!
Just to finish off on the subject of the MDC Website, it was encouraging to see a comment on the Markhouse Face Book Group site a couple of weeks ago; this from an Alan McPherson who, while not a fellow pupil or member of the Drama Club, obviously had connections to some of our number. In response to one of them, he wrote:
‘Just read through this wonderful website. I was at Gamuel then Gascoigne, so never had any contact with Markhouse, although many of my classmates who lived on the St Saviours side of Markhouse Rd obviously did.
However, you probably know this my now, but just for the record Cyril Malyon, was my form teacher at Gamuel during my second year in the juniors. He was there for one year only from Sept 1955 until July 1956’.
Editor’s Note: Alan is just slightly out on his dates – Mr Malyon returned to Markhouse in 1955
On the subject of ‘catching up’ with former members
It is good to have been able to have done so on a couple of occasions over the past months; both with a ‘fully fledged former Drama Club member and with a couple of former Markhouse pupils who were pretty well involved in the school based productions – but who didn’t quite move on beyond their apprenticeship!
As for the ‘fully fledged’ former member, it was really good to see and spend some time with Sandra King (Callaghan) again; having not met since the 1977 Farewell Event – just a mere 43 years ago! However, it was certainly just a mere blink of time in easily recalling many of the shared memories from those earlier days; of the Drama Club, the friendships within it, the school and of what it was like for ourselves and our families living in Walthamstow at that time.
Sandra, who now lives just outside Colchester, asked that her best wishes are passed onto to her former friends!
Thanks to the ‘Markhouse School’ link on Facebook we were also able to make contact with Robert Paine who was at the school between 1956-61 and in one of the very early class groups to ‘stay on’. Bob was involved in a number of the school based productions and, on meeting, recalled some of his enjoyable memories from these – mainly backstage; also of our class friends and the teachers at that time. Unlike a good number from this particular group, Bob did not continue into the Drama Club and was, in fact, heading much further afield and nearly made it to an anticipated new life in Australia – but not quite! Bob now lives in Laindon in Essex. It was really good to be able to catch up with him and share some thoughts on the ‘Markhouse Experience’.
The sharing of these school day memories was much the same with Gary Woods, who like Bob Paine, had been involved in a number of ways in the school based productions. Although not going onto the Drama Club, Gary maintained his friendship with some of the Drama Club members, including those who, like himself, also became involved in the Sea Cadet Unit that met at Marsh Street Youth Centre. In particular he recalled meeting Gordon and Gerald Aylott on his first day at Edinburgh Road Junior School and continuing, except for their first 5 years, an almost lifelong friendship with Gerald right up until his sad and untimely loss last year.
Again there was much to share about the ‘Markhouse Experience’ and particularly of being in the same ‘staying on’ (5X) class as Bob Paine and several other Drama Club Members.
Bob and Gary have both asked for their best wishes to be passed on; particularly for those with whom they spent an ‘interesting’ five years under the caring eye of Mr Bowyer – aka ‘Reg’ – although no-one ever called him that!!!!
The above photograph from the Website’s ‘Markhouse’ pages shows both Bob (Back 2nd from right) and Gary (Centre) along with Jimmy Braid, Gordon Aylott and Dave Morgan on the Isle of Wight School Trip. Note the two ‘brave’ ones who advertised that they weren’t ‘locals’ by wearing a blazer with the school badge – either that or else they were trying to curry favour with Mr Smith!
The search for former members will, of course, continue and might even enable us to find a number who have buried away all their programmes, scripts and even photos – hopefully – if they can remember where they put them!
Happy Browsing, Regards & Stay Safe!
Dave, Denis, John, June, Norma & Peter