Jill Sparrow

Co op Arts Theatre and its volunteers

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Reading about Ben's memories of his time in Sneinton reminded me of a lovely couple who lived on St Chad's Road.

 

Arthur and Doris Bates were involved with the Cooperative Arts Theatre, as it then was, on George Street, Nottingham. I attended ballet lessons there from the early 60s and both my sister and Su Pollard were members of the youth drama groups, as I was also later on.

 

Arthur Bates was the building's caretaker and Doris was the wardrobe mistress for many years.  I see they were married in 1931 and I believe they had children, including a son. Arthur died in 1977 and Doris in 1993.

 

They put endless hours into the Arts Theatre, as did many others for it was mostly run by volunteers.  A truly lovely couple from Sneinton.

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Missed you by a couple of years then Jill..................it was the Coop place on George street where i went to the youth club........again ran by Volunteers Mr and Mrs Pettit..............Mrs Pettit caught me kissing Sandra on the Fire escape.....(funny place to kiss a girl,i know)  she threatened to bar me,,but gave me another chance,,,so i  kissed her on the front steps....:rolleyes:

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Are you talking about the theatre, ie the former Particular Baptist Chapel, or the place behind it on Broad Street, which became a cinema? I believe both were owned at one time by the Cooperative Society.

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Not sure,,George street i think..........had some great times there Courting and Dancing......think the club was called 'Pathfinders' certain the football team was....i was 15 to 16 and it was the last time i saw many of my school class mates....again,very happy times...

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The Coop Arts Theatre had a very interesting history. I'm not sure whether it has its own thread on here but, if not, how about starting one CT? I have lots of memories of the place and people involved. Sounds like Ben has, too!

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Netherfield amateur dramatic group used to do a musical there each spring.  Company I worked for used to do the lighting for them.  It was all voluntary unpaid work but we liked to chat up the girls in it.  Happy days during the early sixties.

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My memory of Co-op arts Centre was going to see My Fair Lady or Pygmalion, it may have been called, (it wasn't a musical). The daughter of my work colleague at NCB X-ray Centre, played the part of Eliza Doolittle. Her first name escapes me but her surname was Towle, ( I believe she's married now). The whole show was BRILLIANT !!

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The non musical version would have been George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. I have played the role of Eliza Doolittle myself, at The Manning of all places.

 

Loppy, there were some good young folk learning lighting and stagecraft at The Coop Arts Theatre in the 60s and 70s, including one Stanley Osborne who went to LAMDA to study lighting. I believe he went on to a professional career in that area in stage and films.

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I've just realised I had confused and interchanged two different places.

 

There's what is now called the Nottingham Arts Theatre, on George Street  https://goo.gl/maps/irz5eYqkiQqMRcfD8

 

And there's Broadway Cinema on Broad Street  https://goo.gl/maps/xSv7q1kgjyh1zaUPA

 

Broadway is a former Methodist chapel and Nottm Arts is a former Baptist chapel.

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A lot of people confuse the two establishments, CT. During my childhood, they were both run by The Cooperative Society, the Broad Street premises as an Educational centre but I remember The All England  Sunshine Dancing Competitions being held there in the 60s.  There was a large hall, complete with stage and dressing rooms but no fixed seating. This was as opposed to The Coop Arts Theatre which had a proper auditorium. I was very familiar with both in those days.

 

Most of the buildings in that area are Georgian but those two chapels, having been declared redundant, had new facades and the Broad Street centre looked very 50s/60s ish during my childhood.

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The School of Dance I went to in the early to mid fifties used to have displays at the theatre on George Street.  I’ve been a primrose flower, a Gollywog!  A blue toothbrush (remember the song?) one of 3 little man in a flying saucer (a popular song again) did a solo tap dance among other dances and even did the can-can!!!!
I remember the dressing rooms under the stage and loved wearing the stage make up.

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The Coop Arts Theatre was converted from a chapel into a theatre mainly by volunteer labour in the late 40s. Some years ago, the NEP published some fascinating photographs which showed the conversion process in progress and also showed the exterior of the front of the building as it looked when it was a chapel.  I lent the article to my sister and never got it back!  I would love to see those photos again. The interior of the building was fascinating and although the auditorium area and the scenery loft above it had been much altered during the conversion, other areas of the large building had been left virtually untouched.

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There was a walled off area above the auditorium where we had two big spotlights one of my workmiates and I used to run them to track the principle performers onstage.  Lots of fun.  one night I couldn't see my spot on the stage.  At first I thought the bulb had gone.  Then I realized it was on the backs of the first three rows of the audience.  They must have wondered why.  A bit redfaced that night.  :Shock:

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I remember those, Loppy. When the spot was shining on you whilst you were onstage, you couldn't see further than the first two rows of the audience.  There were two window-like apertures in the wall high above the foyer doors where the spot operators did their job. I never went up there. It must have been one of the few places I never saw!

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That's right Jill.  We had an intercom up there.  It contacted the main switchboard. Our boss ran that and used to call us each night to make sure we were there.  The spots were left on full time.  We used to cover them with a piece of cardboard and then slide it off slowly once we could see the spot dimly on the person we wanted to highlight.  Pretty low tech.

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I suppose, compared to today, it was all pretty low tech but it was a wonderful resource for young people to learn and gain experience, on a voluntary basis, in such areas as, stage lighting, scenery painting, joinery, costume making/design, stage management, box office, front of house, etc, under the supervision of older, more qualified practitioners.

 

In addition, for a nominal membership fee, the youth groups had the benefit of tuition from drama teachers who taught us how to breathe properly, how to project our voices, how to move around on a stage, how to speak correctly. All this was invaluable for instilling confidence and it was also great fun.

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Most of the amateur dramatic and operatic societies in Nottinghamshire staged their annual show at the Cooperative Arts Theatre. It was infinitely cheaper than the commercial theatres and the auditorium seated some 500 plus. Ticket prices were very reasonable. 

 

There was a coffee bar for hot drinks in the interval, staffed by volunteers. Those who wanted alcohol had to whizz round to The Lord Roberts!  The theatre did have a bar in the Green Room where alcoholic beverages were available to theatre members.

 

There never seemed to be any shortage of productions in those days.

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1 hour ago, Jill Sparrow said:

 

There never seemed to be any shortage of productions in those days.

During my last year at school one of our teachers, Jock Bowley, who was involved in the theatre took a small group of pupils to the theatre to do the scene shifting between acts. Big vertical boards on wheels and painted with skyscrapers and interior scenes used as the background and in the wings. The play, a musical, was "A Place Called Paradise" and the story seemed loosely based on the 1957 "Westside Story". The costumes were authentic Teddy boys suits, much coveted by some of us schoolboys. A small but excellent band (including electric guitar yay!) in the pit covered the incidentals and, unique to this production, the singing. 

A year later I was involved in a proto rock roll band and we entered a 'talent'  competition in the theatre. We came 2nd to a country western band. The judges' analysis of our performance was that we didn't smile enough!

Lol, rock'n'roll band smiling eh? I soon gave up playing in a band anyway.

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There was a Jeffrey Bowley involved with the Cooperative Arts Theatre. He worked with the Senior Group but he produced a play called Little Lambs Eat Ivy, which I was in, during the early 70s.

 

Many of the drama leaders were teachers and gave up their time to work with both junior and senior groups at the theatre.

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I guess that would be the same man, Jill. From a copy of teachers' autographs when we left school he's signed E J Bowly. Just checked it for spelling. We lads inevitably called him Jock, but not to his face. I once encountered him taking a weekday lunch in the Roberts, that would be mid '80s so I guess he was still involved in the theatre then.

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Almost certainly is, WW. Which year did you do your scenery shifting stint?

 

For some years a chap named John Evans ran the senior group. He was really good and did some excellent productions. I had the idea that Bowly took over from him but they might both have been involved.  The senior group was more my sister's domain.

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I think this is the fellow in question, WW.  Obituary:

 

 

Edward Jeffrey JeffBOWLYBOWLY EDWARD JEFFREY (JEFF) Passed away on 26th October 2008, after a short illness, aged 83. An active and long time member of the Co-Op Theatre. Funeral service to take place at Bramcote Crematorium on Thursday 6th November at 1.15. Family flowers only please but donations if desired for The British Legion may be sent to A.W. Lymn The Family Funeral Service Main Street, Bulwell NG6 

 

He's also mentioned here:

 

https://www.toyah.net/supollardofficial/interview100.html

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Thanks for that information Jill, it completes the timeline for that chapter.

I did my stint there for one production only in 1959. I don't remember John Evans. 

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Bowly had clearly been involved for a long time. My sister and Su didn't get involved until the early 60s.  I think different people produced different types of shows. John Evans seemed to do the straight dramatic plays, such as The House of Bernarda Alba, and others were more at home with musicals.  There was certainly a great deal of talent and ability in that place during those years.

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The one I really remember was 'The Acadians'  probably 1961. I had a thing for the lead singer.  Lovely girl,  good singer too.  She didn't seem interested in me though.  :(

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