A full page spread in the local paper (‘Sharing your memories of Little Theatre’, HBT&TN, 16 January 2020) appealing to past members to delve through photo albums and scrapbooks for mementoes of the theatre, produced an instant response. Little Theatre member, Vaughan Leslie, was contacted by the son of 95 year old, Maurice Gill, who was involved with the theatre in its early years. Vaughan met Maurice on Friday 24 January, accompanied by Ray Riches, one of the longest serving current members of the theatre.
Maurice’s involvement with the theatre goes back to 1933. He was born in 1924, the same year the Little Theatre came into being. Maurice was still only 9 when his mother, a keen theatre-goer, took him along to see his first Little Theatre play, at the ‘Bandroom’ (the theatre was then based at the Hebden Bridge Band’s Pavilion, on what became Calder Holmes Park). It wasn’t long before Maurice was getting involved behind the scenes, too.
Maurice remembers the conversion of the Ground Floor of the Trades Club into a new theatre, in 1937, and says he lent a hand, although he was too young to be a great deal of help! His cousin was an electrician at the theatre, and Maurice took on the same role between 1938 and 1943.
He remembers plays like Pastor Hall, from May 1940 (https://hblt.co.uk/archive-items/pastor-hall-1940), a propaganda play about the Nazis, which he was responsible for lighting. He recalled how, during war time, if the alert was sounded the curtain was lowered for five minutes to allow patrons to leave if they wanted to, after which the play carried on!
Maurice’s involvement was brought to a premature end in 1943, when he was called up to the RAF. After the war, Maurice returned to the Valley, living with his wife in Todmorden. He continued attending the Little Theatre, but didn’t get involved behind the scenes again.
It was lovely to meet Maurice after all this time, and we thank him for his contribution to the theatre during the difficult war years.