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Youth Club spectaculars on the Sunday School stage

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: April 20, 2014

  • The programme from the 1945 production of The Woman of Samaria

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LIKE a number of church groups in the old Staffordshire area, the Methodist Chapel circuit of Darlaston, although very small, was quite active during the 1940s and '50s in the production of musical concerts and drama plays.

The circuit consisted of Pinfold Street, Joynson Street, Slater Street, and Fallings Heath. I did not know much about the first two and for a short time was a member at Slater Street, who I believe performed a play or two after I left the Youth Club.

However I had a long association and membership at Fallings Heath Youth Club, where I ended up as Assistant YC Leader.

At least one Choir Festival Concert was performed in the chapel, and two plays were known to have been performed on the Sunday School stage.

The Choir Festival that was performed (in 1945) was called The Woman of Samaria, with orchestra and four main princicpals, whose names appear on the copy of the programme shown. Followed in the evening by a performance of Mendelssohn's 13th Psalm.

Being only a teenager at the time, the five singers in the two performances were unknown to me, although two of the singers could have been related to the conductor Len Mitchell.

Over the next few years two plays were performed on the stage of the Sunday School at Fallings Heath. The first was called 'The Passing of The Third Floor Back', which I remember seeing, but have no evidence of when it took place or who took part, either programme or photographs.

The second play was called The Barrets of Wimpole Street, which was performed some time between December 1949 and July 1951, during which time I was stationed in Germany doing my National Service.

Of the two photographs shown, one shows the whole cast on stage and the other shows the two main players. I do not remember the names of all those in the group photo, but those I do know are as follows:

Sidney Smith, second left; Roy Davis, centre of curtain; Johnny Myatt, in uniform; George Shaw, seated second right; Doreen Richards in maid's uniform; Betty Rogers, lying on settee; Hazel Bagby, sitting on settee. Some of the cast I do not recognise probably because of their wigs, moustaches and make-up.

In the second picture, Roy Davis was I believe from Wales. Betty Rogers would later become my wife.

Earlier I stated that for a short time I was a member of the Slater Street Youth Club and around the turn of the century the Bugle reprinted a picture of the Slater Street members outside Joynson Street Chapel, sometime towards the end of World War II. In that picture were four young boys seated on the ground, all around 13 years of age. Three were unnamed; I was one of them, and the other two were Derek Gibbs and Sid Gateley. Somewhere I have a copy of the original, but it has been mislaid.

Also during my brief time with Slater Street Youth Club, a group of its members were taken on a holiday by train to Colwyn Bay, and we all slept in the school rooms of a chapel situated on what was then the main road from Abergele to Colwyn Bay.

Do you recall any of these Youth Club productions or their participants? Or do you have photographs and memories from other groups' productions which you'd like to see in the Bugle? Give us a call, write in, pay us a visit or send an email to gjones@blackcountrybugle.co .uk.

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