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Matlock & District Amateur Operatic Society, 1930s
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The Arcadians, March 1938

Members of the Cast, 1938
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"The Arcadians", an Edwardian musical comedy, was the Society's 1938 production. The producer was Mr. Laurie Lingard from Sheffield, who also played the dual role of James Smith and Simplicitas. Mrs. Lottie Houseley, who was one of the oldest members of the Society, performed the leading role of Mrs. Smith[1].

The above photograph is of four male members of the chorus. The quartet are, from the left: Bill(?) Housley, Robert (Bob) Wicks, Eric Beardow and Arthur Tibbs.

Performances were given every night of the week and in 1938 the Society tried something different to ensure better audiences on the first night. They made it a 'popular night' which meant that seats were offered more cheaply than on other nights and the experiment resulted in a full house[1].


The Gondoliers, February 1939

Cast members in 1939


Robert Wicks, who was to die, aged only 25, in the War
 

The following year some of the same gentlemen were amongst the cast of Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Gondoliers", which was the last of the twelve productions of the inter War years and was the second time the Society had performed the opera in the 1930s. Almost all their productions since the group reformed in 1927 had been held at the Ritz Cinema on Causeway Lane.

Whilst hindered at pre-performance rehearsals by sickness, the members "overcame all their difficulties in presenting a sparkling performance" when it came to the opening night. Sam Fowkes, who apparently had a magnificent bass voice, reprised his 1930 role as Don Alhambra de Bolero. Others from the 1930 production included Clarice Lill and A. S. Morten[2]. Three thousand people saw the show and the house was packed for the final performance[3]. The gentlemen of the chorus in 1939, pictured above, were Messrs. D. Birds, G. Dicken, P. Dennis, J. Fifoot, W. G. Houseley, R. Hole, H. R. Harding, H. Turner and R. Wicks[2].

At the Society's annual meeting in April it was announced that the production had made a small profit of just £5.

There was not to be another opera in Matlock until 1947 and the Society lost some members in the intervening years. Bob Wicks (left and top left above) was to join the Royal Air Force and his grand-daughter was told he was in Coastal Command. He was Killed in Action on 21 July 1941, aged 25. He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

Arthur Tibbs was still performing at the time of the Society's Golden Jubilee in 1957, and also involved as Chairman of both the Management and Casting Committees. He had played principal parts at some time in his operatic career. Eric Beardow was another stalwart of the Society and became Hon. Secretary. During the war he was a special constable in Matlock. He was heavily involved with the Society's post war revival.


Matlock County School Band Read There is a link between the Society and the school.
Names on Matlock's War Memorial, WW2

The photographer of all three pictures was W. N. Statham of Matlock.
Image scans supplied by and Copyright Chris and Keith Beardow and Deborah Elliott (grandaughter of Bob Wicks) from photographs in their family collections and are intended for personal use only.
Written, researched by and © Ann Andrews.
If you have any further information about the identity of anyone in the photograph we would really appreciate knowing.

References:

[1] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 9 March 1938. Full House for "Arcadians". Splendid Matlock Production.
[2] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 15 February 1939. Gondoliers. Clever Matlock Performance.
[3] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 20 February 1939.
[4] "Derbyshire Times", 21 April 1939.