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The Woodlanders (originally the ‘Woodlands Variety Company’) came into being in 1977 when Mrs Lydia Tudgay, who was choir mistress for the St Katharine’s church choir, proposed holding a concert party as a fund-raising evening in support of the local church and the village hall. Originally envisaged as a simple concert, in discussion it was proposed that a broader based format might work. This was agreed. The event was to be based loosely on the ever-popular template of the music hall – a variety of short acts, mainly based on music – whether song, dance, or musical performance. It established the unshakeable Woodlanders’ principle ‘If you don’t like this act, there will be something else along shortly.’ Variety is not only the spice of life it is the lifeblood of the show from its earliest days. Peter Chapman volunteered to bring the show together and became the de facto producer, a role he filled to brilliant effect for thirty years.
So the ‘Olde Tyme Music Hall’ was launched in the modest surroundings of East Woodlands Village Hall.
The idea proved popular and demand for tickets – at the princely sum of £1 each - was such that while a single night was planned, a second, repeat performance was hastily arranged for the following weekend. Both nights were a sell-out and a legend was born.
THE FIRST SHOW
The first Woodlanders’ Music Hall took place on Friday 11 November 1977 at the East Woodlands Village Hall – which was immediately renamed ‘The Woodlands Hippodrome’, a sobriquet that has persisted to this day. If you know the hamlet that is East Woodlands you will appreciate the sly humour this incorporates, and some have been known, when asked for directions to the venue, to remark ‘It is located between Boots and Woolworths – you can’t miss it.’ It is not known whether those so directed appreciated the joke on arrival.
Much of the regular format of the show was set in that first year: about twenty acts in two halves, beginning with the National Anthem, ending with ‘God be with you’, featuring the St Katharine’s choir and involving the audience in community singing.
The Early Days
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