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Memories & Reminiscences

The hall has been opened for over 40 years now and during that time it has hosted a huge variety of social and community events. Like any community venture, it has its bright, happy and fortunate periods and equally some dark and depressing times and events. In this section, we try to capture the experiences through the eyes of those who were involve or observed events at the hall over the years.  It is hoped that over time we can build up an “archive of memories” that will be recorded within the village for future villagers to read.

“The bright lights beckon” – Linda Whitehead recalls memories of how amateur dramatics came to the village

Not too long after the hall was opened, it’s potential as a venue for amateur dramatics was identified by an intrepid group in the village led by Linda and Pete Whitehead and Stuart Hammersley, and it was over a pint in the Fox that the S.A.W.A.D.S (Stoke Albany and Wilbarston Amateur Dramatics Society was formed in the early 1980s. The group set about building their own portable stage (the hall didn’t have a stage in the early days) and scenery. There was no storage available at the hall so everything was stored at a Springfield Farm and then transported to the hall as required by Charles Peach’s tractor!  Soon the whole village became involved in supporting the group – even lending the group furniture from their houses as props. Eventually, the hall was extended and a permanent stage was built. Enthusiasm for amateur dramatics continued to grow and the plays were a sell-out; generating enough revenue to cover all costs and expenses with any profit going to local and national charities. Sadly the group is no more, but who knows, maybe some budding ‘thespians’ in the village might seek to tread the boards once more?

Live music comes to the hall

During the 1990s and through to 2010, one of the Hall’s major claims to fame was as a venue for rock, blues and R&B music. A music production company in the village called Loud Promotions, managed by a village resident Jim Smith and his friend Mick McCleod, hired the hall for gigs on a regular basis – and before too long, it rapidly gained a reputation on the local East Midlands music scene. In a 1995 an article appeared in the Harborough Mail promoting Wilbarston village Hall as the local music venue. When the Mail reporter asked where the name Loud Promotions came from, Jim Smith explained that they needed an ink stamp to stamp people’s hands as they entered the hall.  The only stamp they had was one given to Mick McCleod but his name on the stamp had been misspelt as Loud rather than McCleod and so the name stuck! 

 Amongst those who the company brought to the village hall were well known names in that R&B music genre such as Jools Holland and Wishbone Ash. The commercial hiring of the hall to Loud Promotions brought much needed revenue into the hall mainly through bar sales which in turn, funded many improvements. However, the hiring of the hall for commercial activities such as these events did not receive universal approval from everybody in the village. But as the Parish Council Chair at the time, Lawrence Dale, commented: “It does bring in revenue for the hall”. Even today, when people of a certain age visit the hall, the conversation often begins “I remember coming here when XX was playing…” Sadly, Jim Smith died in a tragic road accident and regular gigs ceased in 2010 as the company was wound up. 

But the tradition of organised live rock music lives continues on a regular basis; raising much needed funding to support the hall and make improvements. Recent years have seen the hall becoming a regular fixture on the tour itinerary of Wild Willy Barrett and John Otway whose zany musical and stage activities attract a national following. In 2019, a new group, OneovertheEight was formed in the village and played their inaugural gig at the hall in October 2019 to a packed hall and great acclaim (who could forget their rendition of Baker Street!).