The Kirby Players
Kirby Muxloe Local History Group

The Kirby Players

The Kirby Players amateur theatrical group has been an important part of life in our village since its inception in 1944. One of its members, Chris Ball, has very kindly given permission for us to present her history of the group since its formation and to include some photographs of their performances.

You can click on a photograph to expand it, then use your browser "Back" button to return here.

Kirby Players Icon

Kirby Players


I looked up the word history in the dictionary and mine said “record and account of past events, study of these”. Well, that's what I have been doing and time consuming it may have been, but fascinating I have certainly found it to be. I started with the minutes and while these tell me what happened, they don't to my regret tell me why, and if I start at the beginning, as I must, there is now no-one to ask. No-one to ask why in early September 1944, 22 persons got together and decided to start a drama society. There is no further record of that meeting. On the 21st September, an inaugural meeting was held when the title and officers of the Society were decided. The aims and objectives: to develop interest in Amateur Theatricals and add to the social amenities of Kirby Muxloe. Subscriptions 5/- per annum.

10th Oct 1944 in the club room at the Royal Oak Inn: the draft constitution and standing orders were presented to those present and became the Constitution and Standing Orders of the Society. A sub committee was formed to arrange play readings.

25th Oct 1944: The Honorary Secretary reported 57 applications for membership and Mr. Williams was asked to represent the Society on the Parish Hall Committee.

At a meeting at Faleide on the 9"' Nov (I am assuming this is the name of someone's house) {Editor’s note: Faleide was a house on Hastings Road that was subsequently renamed Carmel. Between 1936 and 1951, it was occupied by Donald Cameron of BB Chemical, later Bostik Ltd}: the play reading sub committee were empowered to spend £5.00 on books and plays and that 10/- rent for the room at the Royal Oak be paid to Mr. Upton.

8th Dec 1944: Sub committee to arrange a Social evening It was announced that a play was to be prepared for production and the Little Theatre was to be booked for the 16th, 17th and 18th April 1945.

Also held since the formation of The Players in September were play readings on Nov 2nd and 16th and a Ministry of Information film show on Dec 19th and 11 sketches from the series “I want To Be an Actor” were performed, dates not known.

It is to be pointed out that committee meetings were not held separately, all members attended and then entertainment followed afterwards.

8th Jan 1945: April 12th 13th and 14th now booked as well at St Bartholomews Church school rooms. The producer for the play, yet to be decided, was to be a Mr. John Bourne, his fee for production £15.15.0d. A read-through to be held on the 23rd January and an audition on the 24th, venue to be arranged.

21st Feb 1945: It would appear from these minutes that at some stage they had decided to do a comedy play called “Tony Draws a Horse”. An approach had been made to the Lord Mayor’s secretary regarding assistance in the matter of publicity, sale of tickets etc. The reply seems to have been “don't call us”, as it was suggested the Players contact the Secretary of the Leicester branch of the British Legion. He also replied in the negative, too many events appealing to his members’ pockets.

20th March 1945: Despite the setback in publicity terms, it was decided to continue with “Tony Draws a Horse”, the proceeds of the shows held in Kirby Muxloe to be devoted to Kirby Muxloe British Legion and proceeds of the Little Theatre to the Lord Mayor’s Appeal fund for the British Legion. I can report that £84.11s.7d went to the former and £183.6s.5d to the latter. Nine rehearsals had been held to date and a reduction in royalties obtained £13 reduced to £9. The staging was well in hand. It was agreed that no unauthorized person to go backstage during shows and no unauthorized persons in dressing rooms. Satisfactory arrangements had been made regarding costumes. Insurance for £30 had been taken out to cover properties and equipment. Notepaper to be ordered with the appropriate letter heading, frustratingly I don't know what was appropriate!

22nd April 1945: That a letter be sent to all persons or firms or organizations who have so kindly assisted in devious ways in the success of “Tony Draws a Horse”. So I could only presume it had been a success and indeed I found a report in May which I quote in full (I think there might have been a hidden agenda during this production and whoever wrote it had quite a sense of fun).

The “Firstborn” was not without the usual teething troubles but these were rapidly overcome and Tony in fact developed into a very robust child, whose abilities soon came to the forefront. He not only drew a remarkable horse but succeeded in drawing the crowds, a much more difficult achievement.

The wisdom in engaging a producer of experience soon became apparent and while the original choice of cast following the auditions caused some trepidation among certain supposedly knowledgeable members, the whole was soon molded into a first class company with all members attending rehearsals regularly and playing their part with ability The reception of the play was excellent and proof of the enthusiasm shown is reflected in the receipts, which were in the region of £450.

25th April 1945: An Extraordinary General Meeting was held at the Barwell Road School. It was agreed that membership be open to any person over the age of 16 years residing or who has at any time resided within the ecclesiastical boundaries of the Kirby Muxloe Parish since the formation of the society.

That the society has power to elect Honorary members up to the number of 12.

It was reported during this year that wood had been unobtainable for the purpose of making flats. (I am guessing that as it was wartime, timber might have only been available for certain purposes)

The treasurer was authorized to draw a cheque of £22.10.0d being the amount required to cover the cost of excise duty on the tickets for the plays in hand.

I also came across the only reference to the Kirby Muxloe Operatic and Dramatic Society, when the Treasurer was asked to write to Mr. Kendall for his donation of £5 being partly the balance of the above and the rest making a total of £5 being subscribed by him personally.

Throughout this year, the Players continued to meet in various venues, holding play readings, acting out playlets, visiting the Little Theatre and having talks on such subjects as Makeup.

Throughout 1946, the Players continued in this vein and a production of Hawk Island was performed in November at the Church rooms in Kirby Muxloe, at Glenfield on behalf of their Village Hall scheme and lastly at the Desford Aerodrome.

In Jan 1947, a one act play “Clean Hands” performed at the Church Rooms and entered for the County Drama festival gained a place in the finals.

At the AGM on May 1st 1947, membership was reported as 134. The Secretary’s report refers to an appeal for musical members which had been sent out to practically every household in the parish. The inaugural meeting had excellent attendance but meetings held each fortnight had had a disappointing attendance, although those present had shown great enthusiasm. This aspect of the Players was to be reviewed if real development was to follow. A Mr. Clifford Twigger was appointed as Musical Director.

Scope for drama was somewhat limited through the Players having no home of their own,. The committee were anxious that this state of affairs should not go on indefinitely.

On May 29th 1947, the Chairman gave details of a meeting he had attended of the Village Hall committee. He informed that it had been agreed to purchase the land which had been offered and further agreed to purchase their own huts and application had also been made to the National Council of Social Services NCSS for the “Paul Mat” huts.

In July 1947, it was proposed and seconded to allocate £50 immediately from our funds and the proceeds of the October play towards the Kirby Muxloe Community Hall fund. Also members to be circularized inviting them to subscribe to this worthy objective.

16th Nov 1947: Mr. Clifford Twigger the musical director was present by invitation of the committee. He stressed the importance of greater co-operation between the musical and drama sections. He was invited to arrange suitable music to accompany the three one act plays to be given in Jan next.

The question of forming an orchestra was again considered and Mr. Kendall kindly offered to make inquiries into this aspect.

4th Dec 1947: Discussion held regarding a “Shaw” play, suggested date Apr 5-10th 1948, the net proceeds to go to the Community Centre fund. You will note that there seems to have been several name changes to this building.

16th March 1948: The treasurer brought a matter to the committee’s notice regarding a Mr. Georg Bleyer who had been repatriated. He had no instrument of his own upon arrival in Germany. In the circumstances, one had been purchased for him here. In appreciation of his services to our Society, it was thought we might like to make a contribution towards the cost of a new cello. After discussion it was agreed that we could not devote any sum from our funds but that an announcement could be made by our Chairman at our next members evening and a collection taken. Subsequently the amount raised was £6.10s.0d.

4th July 1948: We had been asked by the Kirby MuxIoe Community Centre committee whether we would be responsible for the cost of the stage and all its appurtenances for the new building. We agreed in principle and a sub committee of four was appointed to ascertain quantities and general requirements of our responsibility,

31st July 1948: The Chairman reported that the musical director agreed to undertake with a suitable producer the performance of Pirates of Penzance in March at the Community Centre hall.

With regard to the stage, a report regarding details of equipment etc. was given and the question of financing it then raised.

In October it was agreed to place an order for the Switch Board for the sum of £155 to be delivered next January after The Late Christopher Bean show. Later in the month, an order for timber for the floor of the stage was placed to Messrs Gimson in the suggested manner proposed by the Chairman of the Community Centre. It was also agreed to make no further financial commitment in connection with the Community Centre at the present time.

Pirates of Penzance to be put on for a whole week instead of three nights.

12th Dec. 1948: The cost of hire of costumes to be ascertained for Pirates and a provisional booking only in the event of the Community Centre being delayed in its completion.

With regard to the construction of the stage, it should remain without a rake and it was hoped that the doors underneath the stage should be designed to give the largest possible opening.

The sum raised so far by subscription to the Community Centre fund amounted to £457.

The sums represented by proceeds from the following efforts should be earmarked for the purchase of the stage and its equipment.

House Party £57.3.3d

Shakespeare Scenes £22.13.4d

Major Barbara £140 .9.8d

Mrs.Kendalls effort £103.10.8d

Members donations £29. 6.0d

Total £353.2.11d

9th Jan 1949: Estimated expenditure in connection with Pirates would absorb some £160 and estimated receipts would be £150.

In view of uncertainty of the date of completion of the Community Centre, production should be early October, use of stage and hall for a fortnight.

We should also make a request for a meeting each Thursday at the Centre for members’ evenings and ascertain what the cost would be and also make enquiries to the Vicar asking what the cost would be for holding fortnightly meetings for the musical section in the Church rooms.

In a report given for the year 1948, the membership had grown to 198. The Players had performed Major Barbara in April at the YMCA theatre. Entered a one act play for the County Festival, performed a one act play at Ratby and scenes from Shakespeare in the open air at 'Faleide', the first fusion of the dramatic and musical sections.

No less than 53 members had taken part in productions and 20 behind the scenes.

The Musical section had 30 members on its register and had started the season by a performance of part songs and selection from Marne England. The result of this performance was to give a similar programme at Newbold Verdon in June and although the rendering fell somewhat, the audience were appreciative.

All were looking forward to the prospect of sharing the privileges of the new Community Centre and thanks were due to all the willing helpers who had worked through the winter months on the site — there was still a job of work to be done before completion.

3rd July 1949: The Players wish to be informed when the main fuse box under the stage was being fitted and they felt the steps leading to the stage were the responsibility of the Centre's building sub committee. It was agreed to equip the dressing rooms in so far as mirrors and lighting. This equipment to be of a portable nature and not to exceed the sum of £34.8.0d. A letter was to be sent recommending that the dressing rooms adjoining the stage be used only by the members of the Kirby Players. However at the next meeting on the 18" July, the minute referring to exclusive use of the dressing rooms was amended to read

"that the rooms adjoining the stage to be used exclusively as dressing rooms with the stage".

The producer of Pirates reported all principal parts had been adequately filled and the chorus was quite strong.

With regard to the quote of 57 guineas for hire of costumes, it was suggested that probably the ladies of the chorus could provide their own, thus reducing the cost. The scenery and backcloth in our possession were not large enough for the Community Centre,

A letter was to be written to the musical director asking what could be provided in the way of an orchestra and that in view of the short playing time of Pirates were there any suggestions for a 'fill up'.

Information was sought on the official opening of the Community Centre and it was thought to be October 15th subject to ratification.

The Players needed to know how many seats would be available for Pirates and when the door to the men's dressing room would be fixed.

A special emergency meeting had to be held on September 2nd to deal with the special circumstances which had arisen following a request from the Chairman of the Executive committee of the Community Centre regarding the dates fixed for Pirates. It was unanimously agreed after discussion that the dates booked week commencing 7th November should stand.

I can find no mention in our minutes of the official opening of the Community Centre and it is not until 21st Jan 1950 that Pirates is mentioned when the accounts are to be passed and congratulations to be extended to all concerned for the excellent result. It was agreed that we present a cheque for the balance of the proceeds amounting to £50.9.4d at the dance to be held on Jan 28th and the local press to be informed. Subsequently I discovered that we had already donated £130 so the above must have been the balance after the accounts were finalized.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1949


2nd April 1950: That at the next AGM it should be made known that it was the committee’s opinion that it would be advantageous to have some representation from members with musical interests on the general committee.

16th May 1950: A discussion regarding obtaining the service of a Mrs. Doris Howe as producer of The Mikado at a fee within the region of £20. This was queried, stating that precedence would have wide repercussions. Lengthy discussion followed, they were obviously not aware that this was not a precedent; they had paid their first producer. A letter of resignation had been received from Mr. Twigger, it was agreed that the Chairman should write personally, expressing his regrets.

20th June 1950: Mrs. Howe was unavailable and in view of the urgency, Mrs. Lillian Dunkley was asked to take over. Her fee was £30 but she would bring a conductor and a gentleman to sing without fee. This was agreed to.

It was reported that an orchestra had recently been formed and constituted as the Kirby Muxloe orchestra of which Mr. Kendall was Chairman. The Players welcomed this new organization.

It was agreed to that a diplomatic letter be sent to members who had not paid their subscriptions (do I hear history repeating itself?).

26th Sept 1950: That a notice in regard to the formation of a junior group be forwarded to all members.

At the 6th AGM, the number of members stood at 242. It was suggested that more one-act plays should be put on during the season, as this would give opportunity and encouragement to beginners in the future. However, the three one act plays given for public performance were not encouraging from attendance point of view – this could be explained by coldness of the hall. The heating was a big disappointment, caused by serious shortage of fuel and finance. At the three act play “John Marlowes Profession” the heating was better but the attendance was still poor. It was pointed out that it only required members to sell 3 tickets and the Players would be guaranteed financial success.

In July 1951, permission was given to build a self-contained wardrobe in the balcony, the proviso, a peppercorn rent of 1/- per annum was mentioned and the Players were to provide their own insurance.

Three estimates from Furze Electrical had been received for a spot bar. It was agreed to go ahead, cost not to exceed £40.

4th Dec 1951: The Chairman gave a resume of what had led to the purchase of 100 chairs from the Leicester City Corporation for the sum of £20. Up to this point, the Players had had to hire chairs for each performance. The Secretary was instructed to write to the Community Centre stating we were pleased to hand over these chairs as an additional means of comfort for the Players.

In November 1952, it was reported that a pantomime had been chosen for performance in January 1953. This would be the Players’ first panto, Dick Whittington. The question of an orchestra was raised. The producer said she thought no useful purpose would be served by having an audition. It was agreed she should select her own cast.

6th January 1953: It was reported that all was going fairly well. The Free Church had kindly agreed to loan us a piano and the question of transport was discussed, Horace Webster was suggested. The producer further stated that she felt she should have been informed that the booking for the Tuesday in the week of the panto had been let to the WI. This appeared to have been caused by misunderstanding – OOPS!

28th March 1953: The finals of the One Act play Festival were held and the Players production of The Hands of Hardouin won the coveted County Drama shield, which was presented by Sir Robert Martin to Myfanwy Stevenson, the producer.

In June 1953, reference is made to the training of the junior group, as it was asked if they could have the same rehearsal night at the Centre to save expense.

Also in June, the Players participated in the Pageant, as did most organizations in the village. This was held to celebrate the coronation.

12th Jan 1954: panto time has come around again and the question of ice-cream was raised. The Chairman said he would contact Walls. It was also suggested that we have a banner made to advertise the panto which was to be Babes in the Wood.

13th April 1954: It was decided that rehearsals for Pirates of Penzance should commence after the Easter holidays (It would seem we are doing it again!). The legal position with regard to payment of a producer in relation to entertainment tax was raised.

11th May 1954: The Chairman read details covering exemption of payment of entertainment tax. It definitely stated that a conductor or any member of the orchestra must not receive remuneration for their services. I could not see the relevance of this to payment of a producer but they obviously had their reasons! It was proposed in future that anyone taking part in a production should purchase their own script or score. In future, committee meetings to be held on the 1st Tuesday in the month, to avoid clashing with the WI meeting.

7th September 1954: A piano in good condition was available for £20 and it was agreed to purchase. The money to be raised by functions such as whist drives. The piano was to be donated to the Community Centre without any conditions except that it be kept locked.

3rd February 1955: The musical sub-committee suggested that although Gilbert & Sullivan was most enjoyable, it would be refreshing to try something new, Vagabond King perhaps?

At an Extraordinary General Meeting held on the 1st September 1955, present: the Chairman, Acting Secretary (The Players had been running all year without a secretary) and 9 members.

It was proposed that the constitution be amended to allow persons not residing in the ecclesiastical parish of Kirby Muxloe to become associate members of the society, paying a subscription and participating in the activities of the society but without the right to vote.

In view of the unrepresentative attendance, it was suggested that voting on this amendment be deferred but this was defeated and the motion as carried.

Vagabond King

The Vagabond King
in 1955

14th November 1955: A small loss had been made on Vagabond King; murmurings that musical shows were getting out of hand with regard to expenses were heard!

1956 was not a good year for the Players. 97 members on the books but only 55 paid up. Really poor attendance had been experienced at members’ evenings, whether they had been one act plays or excellent outside speakers. It was suggested doing away with such evenings.

Attendance for all public performances had been extremely poor and the dance held in December had also received very little support.

Mikado

The Mikado in 1957

In 1957, the Players did only 3 productions: a melodrama in February, 3 one act plays and the Mikado in Oct.

1958 seems to show something of an upsurge. In January, a dance was held; February, a pantomime; March entry for the one act play festival; April, a three act play, The Hollow; June a rummage sale; July members’ evening, 3 one act plays; September opening night, a floor show with musical items; October 3 act play The Blue Goose, a talent night and a whist drive; November a bonfire party and film show, makeup and tuition evening and one act plays, and finally in December a fancy dress dance and a carols evening. You will note no G & S. Musical members had expressed at the previous AGM they didn't want it but failed to turn up for auditions for the proposed production of Goodnight Vienna!

At a meeting held on January 6th 1959, Millicent Marriott was accepted as a member. You will note that during this history I have given very few names but as Millicent will be known to many of you not just through the Players but for all her other efforts in the village and in view of her age, I thought it would be nice to record it.

At the AGM on the 30th April, no nomination had been received for Honorary Secretary. The present Secretary, on asking for volunteers, met with stony silence — his words, not mine! In an impassioned speech about what members do or do not contribute, he stated it was impossible for any society to function without a Secretary and therefore the drama society may as well finish. A volunteer then came forward (a new member) and was promised every assistance. (Does blackmail pay? My words this time).

10th July 1959: The idea of a workshop or store room was first mooted.

The question of the new license for the Community Centre which had been issued on certain conditions was discussed. The license had only been issued on the grounds that most of the lighting be replaced. The Community Centre was financially unable to do much about this and had thrown the ball over to the Players. It was agreed to suggest a meeting of both parties.

3rd November 1959: The Secretary informed that he could obtain an amplifier and pick-up with separate speakers for the sum of £30. The committee felt this was very reasonable and after little discussion and reluctant approval of the Treasurer, it was agreed to buy. 1959 saw the players perform 2 plays, 2 social evenings and finally the musical Goodnight Vienna. Midsummer Night’s Dream was performed in the grounds of Roundhills and I am told that there were microphones in the trees which picked up birdsong as well as the music. The biggest problem during this year had been lack of male actors of all ages and finding accommodations for rehearsals, shows having to be planned months ahead to find a spare evening at the Community Centre.

Iolanthe

Iolanthe in 1960

At the AGM in 1961, the Secretary reported for 1960 that the 3 act play The Heiress entered for the County full length play festival produced by Myfanwy Stevenson had won. The open evening had been marked by an Old Time Music Hall, complete with bewhiskered Master of Ceremonies. lolanthe could have wished for larger audiences and the pantomime had to be cancelled when the producer withdrew through illness and no replacement could be found. The members' evenings in the form of a treasure hunt, bingo, a play reading and film show had been poorly attended.

1961 seems to have had no members evenings. A musical , one act, a comedy and a thriller were performed.

1962 saw rehearsals begin for Yeoman of the Guard but it was not supported by members and had to be cancelled due to the lack of enthusiasm. Success did come with My Three Angels, coming first in the three act play festival. Despite the Little Theatre's objection to Salad Days (they had an option of first performance in Leicester), it was too late to arrange another show. This show was actually performed in 1964. A comedy and pantomime Robinson Crusoe were presented.

1963 brought success again in the one act play festival with The Life of Hercules Page 1 winning the shield and the players venturing into the open air with The Tempest and completing the year with Night Must Fall.

In a meeting in October 1964, the Chairman stated that a producer had been found for the pantomime and he had suggested Red Riding Hood. A musical director and pianist had been appointed and an audition to be held on 29th October. Surprise was expressed that this had taken place (in inverted commas) behind the scenes. Some members were unaware what was happening. The Chairman stated that time was passing, these things needed to be done. Information could be put forward for the committee's discussions and opinions, thus saving time. It was expressed that this was most unorthodox and a lot of people might object to the way this had been arranged. Lengthy discussion followed resulting in the view that the panto was a good choice.

An emergency meeting held on Monday October 16th 1964 was called owing to the sudden tragic death of our dear friend, the incomparable Pam – Miss Pam Peckham. I put this into our history as this is the first record, sad though it is, of a member of the Players dying and I personally remember the plaque over the entrance to the Community Centre when I came here in 1968.

The Ministry of Works had given permission to use the Castle grounds if certain conditions were adhered to, however it became apparent that costs for an open air production would be too high.

The question of bookable seats for the pantomime was discussed. Publicity for this was unusual and I don't think has been attempted since. The milkman's horse and cart were borrowed, a few balloons and decorations were pinned on – costumes stolen from under the eyes of the wardrobe mistresses, and they set off down Hinckley Road and into the village, apparently on a freezing cold day – supposedly reported as good fun.

28th September 1965. After attending a meeting of the Community Centre it was found that if the loan of £803 to the NCSS was repaid, the Centre could be kept for the use and enjoyment of the village. Alternatively, the Centre could possibly be sold and then hiring could be very expensive. Long discussion was held on the amount we could contribute towards the deposit due in November. £15 was agreed on and the Parish Council had offered £150. Deferment of time was negotiated to December and there was hope of raising the full amount. The question of who the Community Centre belonged to was raised, answer the Parish Council when the debt is paid off, but administered by the Community Centre committee.

In April 1966, the question of a licensed bar was talked about for the Society's shows but it was thought there was no room and that this was a matter for the Community Centre. The Players had a skittle evening in July at Wigston and obviously it was a success because they held another one in August at Huncote. Two comedies, a one act and a panto were performed

1967 saw a good profit on the pantomime Cinderella, a musical Free As Air a one act and a comedy Rape of the Belt were performed and in April of this year it was felt that a person or persons should be on the committee to deal solely with the publicity of such shows. June saw the PRO and assistant attending meetings and suggesting that we make full use of the radio station broadcasting for Leicester. October brought the first suggestion of a workshop attached to the back of the Centre. It was suggested we might purchase a pre-fab but subsequently found they were not allowed to be sold. December saw the launch of a competition amongst members to design a programme cover, the prize to be a token to the value of 21/-.

Feb 1968 brought the idea of buying a shed for storage purpose and in June the Community Centre was proposing to build an additional room to the Centre leading off the kitchen.

Since 1967, the Players had been raising funds for the building of a theatre workshop and in November 1968, the Community Centre were apparently very low on funds due to the increasing expense of the gas heating and the Players were asked if they would put on a Music Hall in March after the fete in the afternoon. This was unanimously agreed to and it was decided to do an additional night for our own funds. We had also been asked by Stafford Leys to do a show and they had promised to donate towards the Players building project. A notice was to be put in the foyer on the nights of production that any profits would be going towards the Theatre Workshop fund. For the programme 1969/70 it was resolved to attempt for the season, a panto, a musical, 2 plays and a musical evening.

The Boy Friend

The Boy Friend in 1968

In April 1969, it was reported that the profit on the Music Hall had been £43. May was to be booked for our own funds and Glenfield Social Club had approached us for the same show. Letters of thanks was sent to Mrs. Marriott for playing the piano and to enquire about her availability for May. Thus began I think Millicent's long association with Old Time Music Hall for the Players.

Block bookings were sorted out in this year as constituting an organized body of 20 or more persons and could only be booked on the first two nights of a panto, musical or any production running a whole week and on the first night only of any play or production running for only half a week.

Members were to be notified well in advance of official booking date and would be entitled to a small personal priority booking.

In November 1969, a dinner and dance was held at the Goscote Hotel Birstall to celebrate the 25th anniversary.

30th April 1970 saw the plans for the theatre workshop on display.

Better publicity raised its head again as ticket sales for Letter From the General had been disappointing. This had however been the first “straight” play performed for some 7 years.

The Players had diversified further this year, performing Twelfth Night at Winstanley School and Stop The World I Want To Get Off at Stafford Leys School, returning to the Centre with Doctor in the House.

4th May 1970: The plans for the Theatre Workshop were waiting to be passed by Blaby Rural District Council and by 28th May this had been done.

29th June 1970: The plans had been sent to 7 people for tender – 3 had turned it down, 3 had not replied and the only quote received was for £1100, which the Players could not afford. Further tenders were to be applied for and an application to be made to Kencast to see if they could provide anything made in pre-cast concrete.

The idea of making cushions for the chairs was first raised.

10th August 1970 saw acceptance of the tender from S. B Sharp & Son, the cost £679.

14th September 1970: It was reported that the Community Centre had a quotation for an extension to run down the village side of the hall from the kitchen to the gentlemen's cloakroom. Many activities were being arranged to raise funds and the Players allocated a music hall to this cause.

A special meeting was held 18th November to discuss the number of shows to be performed each season, at what time they should be presented, whether the full potential of new members was being used and whether membership should be limited. It was agreed that it should not be. Membership forms were to be re­designed so that information could be found as to what potential new members had done and what they were interested in. It was confirmed that anyone wishing to audition for a part must be allowed to do so as stated in the constitution.

The Society should try and fit in 8 productions in a season and agreed in principle to taking productions outside as well as at the Centre.

Many members wished to revive a G & S production and were willing to underwrite any loss on this. It was agreed to accept this idea in principle for the season 71/72. However, the following points to be clarified before fully committing. Cost of obtaining a producer as members would require authentic style, cost of hire of costumes, cost of hire of orchestra, whether a pianist would be needed for rehearsals, whether we would have to go outside the Society for principal parts.

In January 1971, the Society had £52 in the bank. The treasurer said that should any outstanding bills need to be paid he would cover them from his own account, an extremely generous gesture to which the committee gave their sincere thanks. £100 was still owing to the builder for the workshop.

By February 1971, all debts had been paid except for the balance of the royalties on the pantomime, which was due to the postal strike. The theatre workshop was completely paid for including the electric bill.

For March 1971, the suggested programme was a 3-act play, Rose Without a Thorn at Stafford Leys school, a 3-act play at the Centre, possibly a comedy in Sept/Oct time. Jan 1972 – a pantomime, April – HMS Pinafore and May a 3-act play.

In the Secretary’s report for the season 1970/71, pleas were made for backstage staff and the need to sell tickets. The Tuesday performance of Lock Up Your Daughters had to be cancelled due to lack of support.

In 1972, the committee were unanimous in recommending at the next General meeting that we institute a new form of membership to be known as patrons, for which the minimum subscription would be normal adult subscription plus 50% and which will entitle them to all the privileges of membership, plus a list of all patrons to be shown on all the programmes.

In April of this year, a special committee meeting had to be convened as it appeared confusion had arisen over individual payment of fees to the orchestra playing for HMS Pinafore. The Players had agreed to a lump sum payment to be split, however the people running the Youth orchestra decided and this now seemed in dispute. It was agreed that if the orchestra would not play, we would endeavour to do the show with two pianos. Another point raised at this meeting was that a lot of trouble had been gone to in obtaining a photographer for publicity purposes, only to have two members refuse to allow their photograph to be taken. All publicity was designed for the good of the Society and it was a point members should keep in mind.

The show did go on in the end, the Secretary reported at the AGM, in spite of all difficulties which your committee are only too well aware. A successful show was duly presented the last week in April at the Centre.

It must be remembered that a drama group cannot present a show which is agreeable to everyone who is a member, but whether agreeing or not with the choice of the show, we are members of The Players and as such we can contribute to the Society by helping with each production, however small the way. The benefits of presenting this show were obvious, the difficulties were not. We gained many new members and many new faces in the audience who we hope to see again.

Two benefits, not so obvious, were pointed out by the Chairman. It must have been a very romantic show, as it is not often we get two engagements out of one production.

On May 5-15th A Sleep of Prisoners was presented at St. Andrews church. This had come about through a request from the then vicar of St. Andrews to perform a show of our choice and this production was subsequently performed in the church at Cosby.

On 30th October 1972, VAT was discussed as to how it would affect the Players.

In January 1973, the question of G & S raised its head again but it was felt that it would be catering to a minority of the Society and as we were not an operatic society and therefore we had not got the voices to carry a production of this sort. 1973 saw a membership of 108, 8 of whom were patrons and during this year a carnival float was put into the Easter parade, a Music Hall performed at the Centre and then taken out to Millfields and Coalville. The pantomime in January had been Mother Goose and a musical Charley Girl performed in November. Also fitted into this year had been a treasure hunt, fancy dress dance, the Players Open evening, which was held every year to start the season, and a Christmas party, but I note no plays.

In January 1974, go-ahead was given for us to paint the dressing rooms. The chairs had still not been repaired and we had received a complaint from the ladies who made the coffee at shows. Apparently the pan used burnt every time the milk was heated and so it was decided to try and obtain one of our own.

The panto Jack and the Beanstalk had been a great success but worry was expressed about the number of children on stage participating in the panto song. It was agreed that Stewards should be doubled at the matinee and a suitable code drawn up for their attention.

In May, the Players took to the stage with Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night’s Dream and as I can find no reference anywhere else, I think this is the first and only time a dog has appeared on stage with the Players. She belonged to me and became thoroughly stage-struck, probably because the gentleman who took her on stage spoilt her to death every night with treats.

When We Are Married

When We Are Married
in 1974

On the 19th July, commencing at 10.00pm, a memorial Old Time Music Hall was performed as a tribute to one of our members sadly no longer with us. The proceeds of this memorial OTMH to be used to purchase a suitable flower arrangement and any balance to be forwarded to the Cancer Research Association. Members were to be asked as to the desired form of this memorial, ensuring a plaque to be included and the whole unit to be portable and placed in a prominent position during the time and at the venue of all Kirby Muxloe Player's future productions. Many people contributed towards this, including the Centre, who loaned the hall free of charge.

The year was completed with a production of the Music Hall at the Braunstone Hotel in September and The Towers Hospital in October and When We Are Married at the Centre. The usual fancy dress dance, open evening, showing of slides, venue The Spanish Blade, and the Christmas party completed the year.

1975 saw the 30th anniversary, celebrated by a dinner dance at the Holiday Inn, and the Players became somewhat of a traveling company, performing music halls at Braunstone, Western Park, Glen Parva, Humberstone, Leamington and Desford.

They also managed to fit in She Stoops to Conquer and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

The OTMH carried forward into 1976, after finishing the panto Humpty Dumpty. It was performed for the Catinians Society, the swimming pool fund, at the Braunstone Hotel, for Memphys, for ourselves, for Ratby Town Band and at Cosby, Hinckley, Braunstone and The Towers. The 3-act play, The Enquiry and a musical Half a Sixpence was slotted in – WOW!

1977 saw a break from pantomime and Toad of Toad Hall took to the stage, a show which the Players have recently repeated. For the first time, a request was printed in the programme requesting that smoking in the auditorium should not be indulged.

In April, it was agreed to purchase new stage lighting control equipment costing approximately £534.

At an EGM held on 19th May, the proposal that the membership age requirement be lowered from 14 to 12 years of age was defeated.

The change to this would not appear until an AGM held in 1998, when the category of junior membership states open to all persons under the age of eighteen.

The Ghost Train

The Ghost Train in 1977

Four music halls were performed, a thriller, The Ghost Train, and a Jubilee revue called Players Reign or Look Back in Anguish. We had also taken part in the Jubilee parade, which had apparently gone through the village at some speed. The reason for this was given as a damp horse drawn carriage interior necessitating a quickly as possible evacuation of the said vehicle by the Jubilee Queen and her attendants if serious damage to their posteriors was to be averted.

As I look through the years that have followed since 1977, I find that the Players are now well and truly established on the course they set out on so many years ago. They continue to the best of their ability to provide a varied and interesting programme for their audiences and their members, bearing in mind you can't please all of the people all of the time. The same problems and constraints, such as available producers, cast, backstage staff, and cost of productions, apply today just as they did in 1944, the only difference now being that the Players have 'a home', a goal which has been worked upon together and separately through the years with the Community Centre Village Hall, as it is now called today.

Who knows what the future may bring and what someone else will have to write about. A possible fly tower for the stage, larger dressing rooms perhaps. Whatever it is, I am sure that the aim will be to constantly improve and provide better facilities, because the Constitution of the Players states today, just as it did in 1944, aims and objectives: To develop the interests in drama and theatre and add to the social amenities of Kirby Muxloe and district.

Chris Ball, 2017