Westwood Works 1903-2003
The WWMS Show was always one of the highlights of the year. Usually staged over one week at the Embassy Theatre in Peterborough, the shows were enjoyed by not only Baker Perkins employees, but hundreds of other people from the surrounding area.
The Shows: (Note: photographs shown with an asterisk depict Company shots)
|1934: Miss Hook of Holland|
|1936: Belle Of New York||1946: Sunshine Girl||1946: Sunshine Girl||1948: Rose Marie||1948: Rose Marie||1949: The Arcadians||1950 - Rio Rita|
|1951: The Quaker Girl||1952: Show Boat||1953: New Musical Director||1953: Annie Get Your Gun||1954: The Lilac Domino||1955: Oklahoma!||1956: Zip Goes A Million|
|1957: Call Me Madam||1958: Love From Judy||1958: Love From Judy*||1959: Me & My Girl|
|1960: South Pacific*||1961: The Pyjama Game*||1962: Brigadoon*||1963: The Music Man*||1964: The King & I||1965: The Desert Rose||1966: Rose Marie|
|1967: Kismet||1968: Half a Sixpence*||1969: Kiss Me Kate||1970: Chu Chin Chow||1971: Hello Dolly||1972: Guys & Dolls||1973: Annie Get Your Gun|
|1974: Lilac Time||1975: Hit The Deck||1976: The Desert Song||1976: The King & I||1977: Finian's Rainbow||1978: Gigi*||1979: Camelot|
|1979: Camelot dancers|
|1980: Oklahoma!||1981: Kiss Me Kate||1982: Cabaret*||1983: Bells Are Ringing||1984: Mack & Mabel*||1985: Chicago*||1986: Hello Dolly*|
|1987: Sugar*||1988: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas*||1989: Annie*||1990: The Pirates of Penzance*||1991: South Pacific*|
In 1930, a then very small society put on a production called Money in the Rollerdrome in Peterborough. The following year they put on three shows - Fanny and the Servant Problem, Cupid and the Ogre and The Strange Adventures of Mrs Brown. This was followed in 1932 by Philida, or Love on the Prairie.
With the influx of people from Willesden to Peterborough in 1933 came members of the Willesden Musical Society who, until then, had concentrated mainly on Gilbert and Sullivan productions. The two societies soon got together and, in 1934, put on their first production, Miss Hook of Holland. This was the first big show of the society and was staged in the old Empire Theatre, or The Little Theatre as it was known. The following year there was another big production - The Arcadians.
The society went from strength to strength and by 1938 was ready to move into the newly built Embassy Theatre, being the first amateur society to use the 1,500 seat theatre. The show was Rainbow's End. The new venue was ideal for staging the big, colourful musicals for which the society was becoming well known.
The start of the war in 1939 meant that the production of Jill Darling was the last the society would put on until 1946. It then had to start from scratch and staged a modest production of Sunshine Girl in the St. Paul's Hall. For the next two years it moved to the Elwes Hall with Hit the Deck followed by Rose Marie. However, by 1949 the society was back in the big time with a second production of The Arcadians, again at the Embassy.
Since then the society produced a show every year up to and after 1992 when manufacturing ceased at Westwood Works. It was not unusual for the performances to attract a total weekly audience of as many as 10,000.
"Sadly, the society’s 42 years at the Embassy, which later became known as The ABC Theatre, came to an end in 1980 with a performance of Oklahoma staged just months before the theatre finally closed its doors.
The amateur performers put on their first ever production, Kiss Me Kate, at the city’s Key Theatre in 1981 and have been at the venue ever since.
It was during the 1980s that Works was dropped from the society’s name and after a brief time as the Westwood Baker Perkins Musical Society, members settled on being called the Westwood Musical Society.
In the last few years, Westwood Musical Society has staged Crazy For You, Anything Goes, Copacabana, the musical written by Barry Manilow, Thoroughly Modern Millie, My Fair Lady and Calamity Jane. There has also been Carousel, Oklahoma and The Will Rogers Follies.
There have been a number of larger-than-life characters who have graced the stage as members of the society, including Graham Aubrey, Larry Roberts, Colin Wise, Clive and Sue Reed, Ruth Hunt and of course Donna Steele, who joined the society in 1989 to play the lead in Annie".
(Extract from an article from the Peterborough Evening Telegraph dated 23rd March 2010)
|62 Years of Shows - 1930 to 1992||1937: Geisha Dinner/Dance and Presentation||1952: Showboat Dinner & Dance||1953: WWMS Dinner||1953: Dress Rehearsal for Annie Get Your Gun|
|1953 WWMS Dinner||1959: Press review of Me and My Girl||1960: Press review of South Pacific||1961 - The Pyjama Game Ladies||1962: Press review of Brigadoon||1965: John Firth Drills the Cast of Desert Song||1965: Press review of The Desert Song|
|1966: Press review of Rose Marie||1968: Press review of Half A Sixpence||1969: Press review of Kiss Me Kate|
|1970: Press review of Chu Chin Chow||1970: Walter Hardware visits the cast of Chu Chin Chow||1970: An insight into the WWMS fitness regime||1972: WWMS Get-together||1973: Press review of Annie Get Your Gun||1974: Press review of Lilac Time||1974: Letter from Edmund Hockridge|
|1974: WWMS 25 Year Service Awards||Rose Rodgers' Long Service Medal||1975: Press review of Hit The Deck||1976: Press review of Desert Song||1977: Press review of Finian's Rainbow||1977: Letter to Peterborough Evening Telegraph praising WWMS production of Finian's Rainbow|
|1978: Press review of Gigi||1978: Long Service Bars Presentation||1978: Buffet/Dance||1979: 50 Years of WWMS|
|1980: Oklahoma Dinner/Dance||1981: Kiss Me Kate Dinner||1981: Joan Clark receives NODA Award||1990: Looking back on 60 Years of Shows||Date?: Alec Ansell honoured by WWMS||Date?: WWMS presentation to Alec Ansell||Date?: WWMS Dinner|
|Date?: WWMS Dinner|
Can you help to fill in any missing dates? If so, please see this page for instructions on how to contact us and we'll update the captions.
We must thank Mrs Sonja Pollard for the loan of the following collection of photographs of the Westwood Works Musical Society that belonged to her father, Matt Walton, a well-known and much respected producer of shows for the Society in the post-war years. Matt's involvement in musical shows went back a long way before that.
Matt met his future wife, Enid, in Newcastle - at the Clarion Cycling Club. - not long after the end of WW1. Enid had been in a choir and had some acting training as a child. They both performed in a choir at various venues around Newcastle and district and took part in several musical shows on the stage. This section of the Clarion movement became very strong and broke away to form the Peoples Theatre (which is still in existence).
They married in 1929 and Matt found work in Rugby where they became involved in the Percival Guild House with Matt taking leading parts in plays by Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw. Enid was accepted into the Rugby Choral Society and sang in many oratorios. In 1933 Matt started work at Baker Perkins and they moved into Willesden Avenue at the same time as the Joseph Baker & Sons employees moved up from Willesden (See also Willesden to Peterborough, Getting to Work and Housing).
Both Matt and Enid were soon taking an active part in the Westwood Works Musical Society and both appeared in "Miss Hook of Holland" in 1934. Matt was a Committee Member for the Society's first production of "The Arcadians" in 1935 and again in 1936, when he also took a leading part in "The Belle of New York" at the Theatre Royal. However, Enid was involved in her own personal production as it was the year that their daughter Sonja was born and she too was to become an active member of the WWMS in later years, appearing in many of the shows. By 1938 and "Rainbow Inn", Matt had become Assistant Producer and he and the Society trod the boards of the professional stage at the new Embassy Theatre. "Jill Darling" followed in 1939, also at the Embassy.
By the beginning of WW2 they had moved into Grimshaw Road and Matt channelled his energies into war work, working a 12 hour day and sometimes nights. (See also Westwood Works at War). He did find time and energy, however, to run a concert party that performed at the many military camps around Peterborough and also for two years put on Sunday night concerts for the local troops at the Peterborough Town Hall. At this time Enid was on duty with the WVS, producing meals at their canteen in Long Causeway. As accommodation was scarce during the war, the Walton household hosted many artistes who were appearing at the Embassy Theatre.
|The end of hostilities found Matt assisting the pupils of the "Jean Hodson" School of Dancing to stage a Christmas Pantomime with his "Eight o'Clock Revue Company" - made up largely of members of the Westwood Works Musical Society. It is known that he directed at least three productions - "Cinderella" in 1945; "Babes in the Wood" in 1946 and "Dick Whittington and his Cat" in 1947.|
Matt was largely responsible for re-starting the society after the war, the first post-war WWMS production being "Sunshine Girl" in 1946 in St. Paul's Hall - a show which recieved great praise from a local reviewer: "It really was a rattling good show. Four evening performances and one matinee at St Paul’s Church Hall, put over with a sure touch for which the Company is entitled to all the applause they drew. These affairs are so much more fun when the performers are your own workmates and friends, for even if you are only one of the audience who has not done a single thing towards it, somehow or other you feel you are getting some of the credit. Conversely, can anything be more painful than to witness your amateur friends perpetrating a flop?
Besides the inescapable hard work of rehearsing to such a standard of excellence as the Company displayed, the girls had toiled with the ingenuity of their minds and fingers to make many of the costumes – though nobody would have known it without being told. They proved that austerity and utility are not necessarily ugly by contriving the fresh bright colour schemes appropriate to musical comedy out of old overalls, lace curtains and so on.
There were twelve principal parts – a beauty chorus of twenty-two and nine gentlemen of the chorus besides the Director of Music, two Producers and the Lady who arranged the Dances, but we decline to mention individuals by name, by way of indicating our sweeping appreciation of them all.
The Programme provided a synopsis of the story of the play which is, of course, absolute bilge. But necessary as that sort of explanation may be on some programmes it was superfluous in this case because, amongst their other accomplishments, the Company had the talent to make the story intelligible.
It takes a lot of other people to make a show like this you know; Wardrobe Mistress, Stage Manager, Prompter, a Forked Lightning Expert, Ticket Committee, Stewards, Programme Sellers and a Publicity Manager. There now, despite our decision not to mention names, we’ll be hanged if we don’t mention the Publicity Manager – the poor devils get little enough notice taken of them. It was J T Fletcher."
This marked the start of Matt's great success as a producer for the Society. Shows such as "Hit the Deck" (1947), "Rose Marie" (1948), "The Arcadians" (1949) - one of the many in which Sonja Walton appeared in the chorus - "Rio Rita" (1950), and "The Quaker Girl"(1951) were performed during this period with Enid playing a principal part in most of these shows. By this time the shows were again staged at the Embassy Theatre. The last production for the WWMS with which Matt was involved was "Show Boat" in 1952 as he was transferred back up north as machine shop superintendent at the newly opened Baker Perkins factory at Bedewell, Hebburn-on-Tyne, where he stayed for 17 years.
He was rather frustrated at first at not being able to pursue his stage activities but in the later years did produce several shows for a small company, "The Happy Go Lucky" at the South Shields Pavilion. Enid became a member of the Jarrow Operatic and spent 13 years as a member of the Newcastle Ladies Choir, taking part in several tours abroad and appearances at the Welsh Eisteddfod and on radio and Television.
Matt retired and moved back to Peterborough in early 1969. After a very full and happy retirement surrounded by his family, Matt died in 1989.
|1945: Matt in Drag for a VE Day Party||1947: The Full Company of the 8 o'clock Revue||1979: Matt's 50th Wedding Anniversary Party at Alma Road Clubhouse|
It is not known whether this photograph has any direct connection with the Westwood Works Musical Society but it was taken outside the main offices and the shield held by the lady in the front row was presented by J.E. Pointon, a director of the company It is thought that the fashions point to the mid 1930s and the shield is inscribed - "Peterborough Musical Competition Festival - Presented by Mr.John E. Pointon".
We understand from Felicity Kamminga, the Secretary of the Peterborough Competitive Music Festival, that the Trophy is still well known (as the Pointon Challenge Shield) and is awarded to Ladies' Choirs. The Music Festival was founded in 1925 and is still going strong. It is possible that the ladies pictured are members of a Baker Perkins choir and some might have been members of the Westwood Works Musical Society. We have found mention of a Baker Perkins Male Voice Choir but so far, details of a female choir has not yet surfaced.
If there is anyone out there who is able to add anything to this or knew someone who sang in one of these choirs, we would be very pleased to hear from you.
We understand that the Trophy currently languishes in Felicity's garage attic as it was not awarded this year (2011).
|As has been described in BPHS's "Virtual Book" publication - "Working in the Wider Community", the expertise of the Baker Perkins Apprentice School was occasionally used to solve problems associated with the staging of Westwood Works Musical Society shows. The WWMS Programme for their 1987 performance of "Sugar" included in its "Chairman's Notes - "An innovation worthy of special note is the revolve to assist speedy scene changes. It has been designed and constructed by our own Stage Co-ordinator, Dave Stonebridge, and apprentices in the Training Centre of Baker Perkins PLC. This represents a further significant financial investment by us in stage equipment and we are especially An grateful to the management of Baker Perkins PLC for allowing us to call upon professional advice and to use fabrication facilities for this special item".|
Taken at the back of the Apprentice School in October, 1984, this photograph shows three fabrication apprentices with a piece of equipment they had made for the Westwood Musical Society's production of "Mack and Mabel" This camera dolly was able to swing right out over the two front rows of the audience.
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