Markhouse Drama Club
Incorporating 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
New School Website – MDC Website Latest Additions – C.M.M.F Projects – Former Members & Drama Club Member to the Rescue
This latest Newsletter includes updates on the ongoing search for former Markhouse Drama Club members, a recently established school website group on Facebook, plans for a further CMMF Performing Arts Project (or two!) and, very sadly, news of the loss of Gerald Aylott; one of the earliest members, earlier in the year
Whilst former members who were at the Drama Club at the same time as Gerald were informed of his sad and untimely loss in February, it is clear that word of this then quickly spread throughout the rest of the membership – many of whom, in the club’s latter years, would have mainly known of him and his involvement, and indeed that of his twin brother Gordon, through their younger brother Ray
Gerald, who died at his home in Stradbrook, Suffolk on the 9th February, was one of the very earliest members of the Drama Club and, as many will also know, was one of the three Aylott brothers who made such a substantial contribution to its life, productions, fun and friendships over the years in which they were involved
Gerald, along with his twin brother Gordon, must have been seen, in hindsight, by Mr Malyon as something of a ‘godsend’ from the moment they walked through the school gates in 1956 – having probably been identified as very likely candidates for all those forthcoming productions that would require, or benefit from, ‘lookalikes’ within a cast group – and, of course, if any ‘actual twins’ might be required!
Their parts of the ‘Lion’ & the ‘Unicorn’ in Alice comes easily and humorously to mind – which suited their great sense of fun. More poignantly, of their respective roles in ‘The Wall’ where their ‘similar appearance’ (save for different uniforms) added a really significant dimension to the impact of the play. This production saw them play two Berlin Wall Guards – one to the ‘East’ and one to the ‘West’ – tragically depicting fellow countrymen, perhaps even from the same family or village or school, being divided by the sheer circumstances of geography and two forms concrete – one form set in a physical barrier of the wall itself and the other by contrasting ideologies!
The play, which was our entry in the Essex Drama Festival of 1964, was a timely piece of ‘theatre in education’ and all of the cast were affected by its subject matter. With the news of the loss of Gerald, it was one of the immediate memories that came to mind. This was not just of Gerald playing alongside his twin brother, but specifically because their younger brother Ray had suddenly found himself ‘promoted’ from understudy to an actual performer. This was of the ‘Boy’ in a family endeavouring to escape from East Berlin – and being dramatically passed over an ‘imaginary’ centre stage ‘Wall’ – with one brother aiding and abetting and the other hell bent on stopping his progress. It is a cherished memory of 3 brothers, and our great friends, performing and sharing their mutual ‘hobby’ together!
It was good to see Gerald at the Royal Forest Hotel Re-Union and to be reminded of all the similar interests that he shared with other members – which was very much characteristic of how the club ‘operated’ throughout its existence. The friendships, relationships and time together was not just limited to Monday & Friday evenings! It was also good to hear of how proud Gerald had become about his ‘little’ brother Ray – of his achievements and the person he was.
After retiring from British Telecom, Gerald and Carol moved ‘northwards’ – initially to the idyllic Suffolk village of Wilby, near Diss; then, more recently, to the nearby village of Strudwick where they continued to enjoy a more ‘rural’ way of life, the open countryside that surrounded them and the many ‘new’ friendships that they had made in this stage of their lives. Gerald’s Funeral Service was held at St Mary’s Church, Wilby on the 12th March and was attended by his family and many of his neighbours and friends; also by several of his former School and Drama Club friends who were, as one of this number described, proud to be one of his ‘mates’ from those early years of our lives!
Gerald was a good, loyal and close friend to many and will also be remembered for a quite subtle and cheeky sense of humour. In my last conversation with him, he said ‘it’s been really hard Dave – but at least I’m still breathing’. I well understood to whom, and to what, he was referring in the first part of that comment – and I admired the strength he had shown towards this. I also enjoyed being reminded of his enduring sense of humour – about ‘still breathing’! DM
April Photo Quiz Answer!
The former MDC member in the Edinburgh Road Junior School photograph, shown in the last Newsletter, was the last person on the right hand side (facing) of the back row. This is Martin Kenny – who was last heard of growing wine – somewhere in France!
The search for Martin continues – perhaps on both sides of the Channel?
Mark House School Facebook Group Launched – But not by ‘Us’!!!
Some ever watchful eyes looking for mention of either former Drama Club members, the school or old school friends in the well-established ‘Walthamstow Memories’ and ‘I’m from E17’ websites, suddenly came across our ‘logo’ of the school – but being used in a new guise, without Mr Malyon’s picture, and under the title of ‘Markhouse Road School’
This relatively new input on Facebook was set up for those who had attended the Infants and Junior Schools; but which quickly found itself also attracting the attention from former pupils of the secondary school.
Whilst we have not, at least as yet, given any thought about establishing any ‘formal’ link on our own site, it has already received ‘posts’ from a good number of recognisable names of pupils who were involved in both school and drama club productions. It has also had quite a number of comments posted about the staff and it has been good to see so many about Mr Malyon – all of which, not surprisingly, referring to how kind a person he was!
Comments have also be posted about the Drama Club and School plays and how much the experience of being in these was valued. One person, in particular, even mentioning how much their involvement in the club, and the friendships within it, had been so important during what they described as ‘quite a difficult time’ of their life – a comment that many others might share when reflecting of the usual ‘ups and downs’ of adolescence?
Some of the names that have appeared, which might ring bells, include Maureen Kerwin (now living in Australia), Lynn Brooks (Nee Waller) who was in The 3 Musketeers, Janet Crane, Linda Hovland (Nee Peters) and Carol Adams (nee Philpot). Carol also mentioned her sister Brenda Philpot, who appeared in a good many productions.
Mention of the Drama Club was also made by Doreen Couch (Nee Sayer) and, in particular, that she appeared in a play called ‘The Family Group’; which was our entry in the 1958 Essex Drama Festival. So Doreen was clearly a very early member of the MDC and her ‘post’ has helpfully given us our first information about the cast of this play
Pauline Stone, a pupil between 1956/61, was also mentioned and although there is no further news of her, sight of her name drew a comment from Bob Paine. Bob, who along with similar contact with Bernard Page and Gary Woods, were all in a number of school based productions. Unfortunately none of them ‘progressed’ their thespian ambitions (in or behind the scenes) beyond this ‘entry’ level – alas!
Bernard has now, in fact, some claim to fame in becoming the first to use the Website’s Contact Page to actually get in touch with other members; this after fortuitously stumbling across ‘us’ when looking for Dick’s original website.
A subsequent meeting with him, some 50 years on from when he was last seen on ‘Shore Leave’ from the Royal Navy, easily brought back fond and humorous memories of those times – just as if it was last week! Bernard did some 20 plus years’ service with the Navy and now lives with his family in Gosport – so, old habits etc etc – e.g. of being able to see the sea – every day!
More news of Bob and Gary in due course, but in the meantime, if you need to refresh the memory, then they can all be seen in the Markhouse School Gallery link on our website. Hopefully the mention of their names will bring some fond memories of their friendship to those Drama Members from the above years – and particularly those in the Markhouse 5X Class of 1961
And Finally – on the subject of former members, Irene asked that her best wishes be passed on to all; along with her regret that she was not able to make the last re-union.
This message comes after a very enjoyable and sunny ‘mini’re-union with her in Brighton a few weeks ago – where MDC views and memories were shared whilst strolling along the Prom, over an obligatory PTT (*See Note) and within bracing breathing distance of the sea air etc – but without Fish & Chips wrapped in an old copy of the Walthamstow Guardian as originally suggested! Whilst the exchange of teenage memories were in order, the temptation to recapture the allure of the former 1d Slot Machines on the Pier was, for financial reasons, resisted!
Note * Pot of Tea for Two!
CMMF PERFORMING ARTS PROJECTS
11th PROJECT AGREED!
After a fairly long gap since the last of our CMMF Performing Arts Projects for young people, we have just, within the last several days, agreed to fund another. This will be the eleventh project since starting this work with the funds that Alec and Jennifer provided for this purpose – way back in 2013!
The vital ‘link’ that has led to this latest project has come through Norma & Phil; with their nephew, the Headmaster of Tendring Collegiate in Thorpe Le Soken, eagerly taking up the opportunity for a number of their young people to extend their performing arts experience through a new and specially written piece of work
As it happens, this initial ‘link’ has proven not to be the only one as subsequent and unanticipated others have ‘appeared’ as the discussion and planning with the staff of the Tendring Collegiate has developed. Perhaps the most significant of these is that the content and theme of this forthcoming project is very much along the same lines as our first – that of ‘Save Lives, Drop The Knives’ (pictured here in rehearsal) – which Ray Aylott had promoted and developed through his work with the Essex Community Police Unit and The Harwich & Dovercourt High School.
However, it was not until driving through Thorpe Le Soken to visit the College, that bells rang that this was also Ray and Sue’s village! Then, when mentioning this to Sue, hearing that their Grandson is not only a pupil at the College, but also that he is keen to be in the project – so another potential ‘link’ which will be really good if it comes about!
As with Ray’s project, this one has the same aim of enabling the young people who become involved to get a positive ‘message’ across to their peers – so very much another example of ‘theatre in education’ that we have been able to help initiate and support We have been particularly pleased to see that the resulting play, ‘Only a Pocketknife’, will not just be performed in the College itself, but also in a number of other local schools. This is very much in keeping with the way in which Denis & June’s son Philip took his ‘Transition Project’ to a number of other schools. In this latter project his group of young people aimed to help those younger children, particularly those with special needs, who were about to make the often formidable step from Primary to Secondary Education.
In all, a lot of ‘links’ from this project – with more news when it starts to take shape towards the latter part of this year.
And – ROOM FOR MORE!
The CMMF Grant for the above project is £1000, which will meet most of the costs in terms of both the ‘in house’ and outreach performances, and so leaves just under the same amount for us a future project, or two?
Whilst we have a current interest in supporting a new Youth Drama Club initiative in John’s home village of Mayland, we are still looking for other members to provide the same sort of ‘link’ – either through someone in their wider family, or to a group with whom they or their family are involved, or just have a particular interest in – any of which might then enable us to initiate a further project and put the remaining funding to such good and productive use. All we need is the initial ‘link’ – you don’t have to do any more than that – unless you want to!
So, if you have any thoughts, however tentative, then please get in touch with Dave for further info and/or a chat – no strings, or ‘work’ attached – on either:
0208.657.6327 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
A Real Drama – Rather than a staged one! Our very own Heroine & Hero
Praise is always appropriate to circulate to friends when it’s due – although those who scan the ‘Walthamstow’ and ‘Markhouse’ related Facebook pages may have already become aware of the recent exploits of Carol Austin and her partner Chris; namely the rescue of a woman who fell in the sea. ‘Fortunately’, as it turned out, this happened just alongside their boat – the ‘Windtalker’
On investigating the unexpected ‘splashing’ near to their boat late one evening, Chris suddenly found him-self trying to hold onto a woman who had somehow fallen into the sea. Fortunately he was able to retain his grip long enough until both Carol’s and his own calls for help resulted in several others responding and completing the rescue.
By all accounts the ‘Windtalker’, with all her lights emblazing, then guided the ‘official’ rescue services to the scene. As Carol aptly noted ‘this was a trip that we won’t ever forget’
NEW WEBSITE MEMORABILIA – LATEST ADDITIONS
After about a 2 year 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?
Despite the possible ‘oversights’ in the search, we may well feel pleased with the fairly substantial coverage that we now have of our productions; similarly that of the Walthamstow Youth Speaks Competitions, Essex Drama Festivals and the range of other information about the school and staff – plus Mr Smith’s revealing account of ‘our education’
Almost inevitably a good number of other non MDC and school articles were ‘spotted’ over this period, with most being copied and sent to the respective members – wholly, of course, just for their personal interest, rather than the website.
It has been interesting seeing how the editions themselves have changed over this period; particularly in their broader content, community news, style of advertising, sport and leisure and, of course, coverage of young people. In the latter respect, much of this period shows a good deal of positive coverage about the lives and activities of the young; not just in the numerous youth drama groups in existence over that time, but also youth clubs and groups in general – with the Newspaper’s dedicated ‘Youth’ section giving almost weekly reporting and promotion of many.
Marsh Street Youth Centre is consistently featured and it has been quite a revelation about the amount and range of activities it offered. These also show an interesting perspective that matches up with the information in Les Smith’s account of the school and confirms that the early arrangements for Markhouse pupils to sit external examinations was actually initiated through Marsh Street. So, some much belated thanks for Mr Raynor who, one suspects, probably never got the praise or recognition he deserved for his part in our education! Given the ‘other interests’ of several MDC members, it was noticeable that there was a good deal of coverage of the local Sea Cadet Unit; also based at Marsh Street. It was good to pass on some of the almost weekly reports to John, Gerald and Ray in particular; also to find a ‘reminder’ that Frank Gizzi, one of the school staff, was involved! Well – are you surprised – many ex pupils will know that metalwork classes saw a good deal of time given to talking about boats – whilst, of course, also making various metal objects – or, for some of us, just trying to file something straight!!!
It seems that once the Guardian Drama Page was no longer edited by Peter Denholm, who had been an enthusiastic and regular MDC supporter, the focus on youth drama groups faded; as it also seemed to do on the activities of young people in general. Conversely, in the later years, more of the ‘negative activities’ of young people seem to have got increasing attention. Whilst such reports were obviously of actual and sometimes worrying events, it just seems a pity that the more positive coverage was beginning to fade – despite the fact that the activities were still going on!
However, the question now is of what next in terms of looking for our memorabilia – and what next for the Website? Whilst only time will tell if a further search of the Guardian, around the dates of several currently ’unreported’ plays, may produce some ‘missed’ clips, an intended look through some of the Walthamstow Independent archives might yield some success – fingers crossed!.
The search for former members will continue and might enable us to find a number who have buried away all their programmes, scripts and even photos – hopefully where they can remember putting them!
Whilst the future of the Website itself is, as previously reported, financially secure, some thought will now be given to how it might be improved in terms of its presentation – and, in this respect
YOU MAY BE ABLE TO HELP!!
Whilst we now have a good collection of photographs on the website, we also have a range of video material from several of the Performing Arts Projects that were developed and funded through the Cyril Malyon Memorial Fund; like the photograph below taken from the Acting Workshops that we funded at the Croydon Youth Theatre
Although the videos are generally too long to place as links to the website, we think that extracts from these, along with some of the ‘still’ photographs of the plays and re-unions etc, could be combined to produce an interesting and attractive ‘opening’ to the Website’s Homepage.
This plan will not, of course, just need some editing software, but some good creative and artistic skills to put it together. The former of these requirements is easily available and relatively cheap – so not a problem!
However, the latter requirement (e.g. in the form of a human being) is a different ball game – unless, of course, there is someone in our membership that has these interests and skills and who could, with the aid of a couple of willing ‘goffers’ to help with the ‘leg work’ (as and if required) , take the lead on this – nudge nudge?
Unfortunately, of course, this would be an ‘honorary’ unpaid position, but just think of the artistic and creative satisfaction of putting a bit more of our ‘history’ together for our grandchildren to wonder at – or giggly!!!
INTERESTED – AVAILABLE – GOT A PHONE/EMAIL?
Then please get in contact – in the strictest confidence!!!!
WEBSITE ADDITIONS. July 2019 www.markhousedramaclub.com
See ‘Website Additions’’ link on the Homepage