To help commemorate this important year, the centenary of the start of the First World War and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, the Earl’s Court Community Trust produced a show called Childhood Memories.
Our production Childhood Memories was about remembering; and started when one resident in Earl’s Court, Daphne Morgan (pictured), spoke to Cllr Linda Wade about her childhood memories in Earl’s Court during the World War II. This was how it all began, as how many things begin, with one person talking to another.
This conversation was the beginning, the catalyst which led to Caroline Tod and Pavel Rjabtsenkov interviewing many local residents about their childhood memories during World War II. They were some beautiful introspective flashes of recollection along with charming childlike observations of the war-torn world they lived in. The common themes were love, terror, resilience and childhood innocence.
Before long we had a production team, two producers, Caroline Tod and Sean Duffy. Our actors from The Earl’s Courtiers led by Toby Brown. Our director Jennifer Barkst and writer Jane Wainwright came from Earl’s Court Finborough Theatre. We had a venue for the main event on the 8th November, St Cuthbert’s Church, supported by Father Paul Baggott and our grand finale at the Finborough Theatre on 10th November; as part of Vibrant festival.
We were able to produce this show because we were supported by funding from City Living, Local Life from both Earl’s Court and Redcliffe ward councillors, TLC Estate Agents and other supporters.
Our playwright Jane created the play, Childhood Memories from the recorded interviews from Daphne, Tony, Rosemary, James, Jennifer, Stella, Stan, Carmen, Andrea, Sheila, Robin, Gladys, Tom, Maureen and Philip.
We had around 400 people who attended the event, over three performances by our actors from the Earl’s Courtiers with music from the wonderful choir, the Chelsea Belles and Beaux. Our actors from The Earl’s Courtiers were : Anneka Berg, Octavian Donnelly, Abigail Jones, Faiza Khan, Ivanhoe Norona, Tony Richardson & Faye Warren.
During the performance, we heard their memories; the laughter and excitement of young children playing on the local bomb sites, searching in awe for skeleton parts when a bomb dropped on Brompton Cemetery. The confusion and fear in our neighborhood when the Doodle Bugs flew over London; the sirens bellowing out, signaling the imminent dangers of bombs dropping in Earl’s Court and many would rush down to the Piccadilly line platform to safety. Some families stayed together at home as if they were going to die, they would die together.
Towards the end of the play, we had won this War and the celebrations began, cheering, dancing, drinking and laughing prevailed. But the war had left many broken, those at home who could no longer hold it together when the sirens stopped. The broken soldiers, shell-shocked, body broken and sometimes alone and ignored. We remembered them and we are proud we were reminded of their courage and loss. As a finale to the show Ed Philips played the ‘Last Post’.
After each performance, local resident and professional Caterer Olivia Mankowitz provided refreshments and gorgeous food. This gave our community the chance to talk with each other; sharing stories; all generations together and that was part of the magic. After hearing about the Bombs dropping on Earl’s Court, many of us will look at Earl’s Court with more respect, curiosity and appreciation of her courageous history.
Bob Barling, a local artist living in Inkerman House in Nevern Road, had devoted much of his time to painting scenes from London during the war and his paintings formed an exhibition at St Cuthbert’s coinciding with the performance of the play.
We worked on an outreach project with St Cuthbert’s with Matthias School which was supported by Opera Holland Park. This project is ongoing. The interviews will continue as will the educational program in some of our local schools. We will be archiving the audio interviews in the Central Library in Kensington.
And we remembered. All proceeds to our event have been distributed between two charities namely, The Royal British Legion and War Child.