Today we continue the story of the birth of the South Shields Gilbert & Sullivan Operatic Society which, this year, is celebrating its 70th anniversary.
In 1998, former chairman Michael L. Barker told of the society’s beginnings after the war.
“Auditions for singing membership,” he wrote at the time of the 50th anniversary, “were advertised and held in Mortimer Road Infants School Hall, where else, for had not the S.S.A.O.S. rehearsed there for years before the war?
“The response was incredible, more than 70 auditioned and 33 ladies and 29 men were accepted for the very first show, which at its inaugural meeting, the committee had decided should be Gilbert and Sullivan’s one-set Yeomen of the Guard.
“The following keenly contested auditions, rehearsals commenced in Mortimer Road Infants School Hall.
“While all this was going on there was another major problem demanding the management’s attention – money!
“We would need much more than what we could collect by way of membership subscriptions which at that time would be about five or ten shillings (50 pence) per annum.”
Committee member John Stafford, a hairdresser, came up with the solution, offering as raffle prizes three permanent-waves as they were always referred to at that time.
“The committee decided that two of these would be offered as prizes and the third would go to the member selling the most raffle tickets at one shilling (five pence) each. The financial problem was solved when over one hundred pounds was raised.
“But the biggest problem of all was yet to be addressed. We had a show, we had a cast, we had a little money, we had a lot of enthusiasm, but we have nowhere to present Yeoman of the Guard.
“The Queens Theatre was gone, the cinemas, of which there were a dozen or so in the town in those days, were all doing such good business they were unwilling to countenance any approach from us.
“In any case the Regent at Westoe and the Odeon in King Street were the only two which had anything like a suitable stage. The Palace at Laygate had a stage but the condition of the theatre electrics was such as to render it a non-starter. So where could be go?”
l To be continued.