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Stephen Butcher
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Posts: 5
Re: New members
« Reply #60: 09.09.20 at 22:36 »
Quote

As the latest new member, the admin and fellow SJB Steve tells me that the form is to post a description of myself, so here goes:
 
I was a contemporary of Pete's at Cambridge. Although we moved in the same theatrical circles, I didn't know him that well as I was mainly involved in the more dramatic side. I was only an associate member of the Footlights, so I could go to the smokers. For the uninitiated "smokers", or "smoking concerts" were members only occasions when new material and/or performers were tried out. I would occasionally also lunch in the clubroom, where I might find myself sharing the long table with the Footlights' big beasts, like Clive James and Germaine Greer.
 
My one venture into revue was to direct the Cambridge one for the Edinburgh Festival in 1966 ("Best Laid Mice") when the Footlights, unusually and for some forgotten reason, didn't go.  Richard Cork, now an esteemed art critic, memorably performed Pete's "Ballad of an Upstairs Window".  David Hare, now even more esteemed, would probably prefer not to remember performing a boater and cane routine. The MD was Daryl Runswick, who I was to hire some 10 years later to compose terrific settings of poems by François Villon for a drama I was directing for Granada Television ("The Testament of François Villon" by Peter Wildeblood).
 
Pete's stature as a composer built towards the end of my time at Cambridge to a triumph in the 1967 Footlights' May Week revue, "Supernatural Gas", which I reviewed for the student newspaper, Varsity. I commented "...there is an unusually high number of serious songs", most, if not all of them, composed by Pete. This was justified because "the cast includes two such accomplished singers as Diana Lubbock and Julie Covington". Julie's name will be familiar - whatever happened to Di? I ended: "It is undoubtedly the best (revue) of the last three years, and the only one I found myself wishing would not end." For that judgement Pete must take much of the credit.
 
Over 50 years ago! How is that possible?!
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Steve
Stephen Butcher
MV Fresher
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Posts: 5
Re: New members
« Reply #61: 10.09.20 at 12:35 »
Quote

on 05.05.19 at 23:27, Ian Dawson wrote:

Earworms  
I find I have a different earworm every time I listen to Pete's songs,  

 
Tell me about it, Ian! "Ballad of an Upstairs Window" is the worst. I should know, I've been living with it since 1966!
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Steve
Pete Atkin
MV Deity
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Posts: 494
Re: New members
« Reply #62: 19.09.20 at 17:53 »
Quote

Hello, Stephen - welcome!   I wish I could say that I have vivid and lasting memories of you from our Footlights time, but I do remember your name.   You're right - many or even most Footlights people also indulged in 'straight' theatre, but I regret to say I didn't, for no good reason other than diffidence and cowardice.
 
You are exceptionally generous in what you say about my participation in 'Supernatural Gas' (I do still have a copy of your review in my scrapbook - gulp!), but big fun though it was for me, there was quite a large cast, all of whom were much funnier than me.   I'm afraid I can't tell you what happened to Diana Lubbock, except that she didn't go on into the biz.
 
One small correction:   'Ballad of an Upstairs Window' was performed in that Edinburgh show by Ray Elmitt, not Richard Cork.   My guess is that Richard would be astonished and perhaps embarrassed by the suggestion!  I do remember him being around, though.   He married Vena Jackson, who was one of Julie's many talented contemporaries at Homerton (including also Maggie (Scott) Henderson, and the actress Jan Harvey).   Vena (as Vena Cork) has written two or three rather good crime novels, in one of which she invented a (fictional) Cambridge college on the site of the church that's at the junction of Northampton Street, Bridge Street, Chesterton Lane, and Castle Hill - a brilliant idea.   Now there's a string of connections for you.
 
Here's to us meeting somewhere some time before too long.
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Stephen Butcher
MV Fresher
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Posts: 5
Re: New members
« Reply #63: 30.09.20 at 18:40 »
Quote

on 19.09.20 at 17:53, Pete Atkin wrote:
One small correction:   'Ballad of an Upstairs Window' was performed in that Edinburgh show by Ray Elmitt, not Richard Cork.   My guess is that Richard would be astonished and perhaps embarrassed by the suggestion!

 
Hi Pete -  
 
Great to hear from you and apologies for the delay in replying. I thought I had set up email notifications but maybe not! I am not surprised your memory of me is limited as I was a mere associate member of Footlights. I stand by my recollection of your songs being the absolute high spots of "Supernatural Gas", although I admit it was full of other delights - a vintage year! However I also stand by by recollection of Richard Cork's rendition of "Ballad of an Upstairs Window". I suspect we are both right. Ray Elmitt was probably at the festival the year after I was there. I shall attempt to upload scans of the programme of "Best Laid Mice". (Not the greatest title but the best we could come up with. "Knox Twice and Ask For Rosie" was the second choice, I ask you!).
 
I am intrigued by Vena Cork's books which I had not heard of - I must look them out. I didn't know Jan Harvey at Cambridge but she became a terrific actress who I worked with several times both on television and in the theatre (a rather weird fringe offering called "Pieties") early in my career but unfortunately I have lost touch with her in recent years.
 
Thank you for the opportunity of reminiscing about Cambridge. Great days!
 
All the best,
 
   
 
 
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Steve
Stephen Butcher
MV Fresher
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Posts: 5
Re: New members
« Reply #64: 01.10.20 at 18:16 »
Quote

P.S. to my previous post, Pete.
 
I subsequently came across the press reviews for "Best Laid Mice", pretty mixed. The most scathing was by Peter Cochrane in Varsity, which, considering he was front of house manager for the show, is somewhat galling! The nicest was by Deryck Harvey but I recall he was always a bit of a soft touch. In an otherwise not terribly favourable one in The Stage I was pleased to read their approval of "Richard Cork, a slim young man who can put over a humorous song without overplaying the punch lines" - I think we know to which humorous song that refers!
 
I also discovered a few very badly typed scripts of some of the sketches including the lyrics of "Ballad of an Upstairs Window", complete with a directorial note "Chair DRC", doubtless the only bit of direction required.
 
I followed up your info on Vena Cork and have ordered the first of the Thorn trilogy from Ebay. Not sure if that is the one with the Cambridge setting, but I thought I should read them in order. A quick investigate on Google Maps would seem to indicate that the church to which you refer is St. Giles', opposite Kettle's Yard.
 
I really should get out more, but thanks to coronavirus......
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Steve
S J Birkill
MV Administrator
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Posts: 732
Re: New members
« Reply #65: 01.10.20 at 21:14 »
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Hi Stephen
 
The other church at that junction is the desanctified St Peter's, right next to Kettle's Yard where I met up with Pete a year ago this week, prior to our last meeting with Clive. What a day that was! We had a look inside the tiny, one-room church (the smallest in Cambridge) which was at that time hosting Susan Stockwell's 'Trade Winds' installation.
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Stephen J Birkill
Stephen Butcher
MV Fresher
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Posts: 5
Re: New members
« Reply #66: 09.10.20 at 16:44 »
Quote

on 01.10.20 at 21:14, S J Birkill wrote:

The other church at that junction is the desanctified St Peter's, right next to Kettle's Yard where I met up with Pete a year ago this week, prior to our last meeting with Clive.

 
Hi Steve -
 
Thanks for the additional information. That final meeting with Clive must have been a truly unforgettable occasion.
 
You are right, of course. I stopped looking on Google Maps when I found the church right on the junction so didn't spot nearby St. Peter's as an alternative candidate. It is actually an area I am not familiar with, which brings home how limited the horizons of "my" Cambridge was in my student days. I probably only set foot over Magdalene Bridge a couple of times in my three years and never visited Kettle's Yard, although, as I recall, it was being opened up during that time. I finally got there with my wife a couple of years ago. I never ventured as far south as the Fitzwilliam, either. That pleasure still awaits, if I'm spared!
 
Vena Cork's first novel, "Thorn", has just arrived. It seems to be out of print, but I sourced a second-hand copy in good condition. A quick flick through would suggest it is not the one set in Cambridge, but I am looking forward to reading it none-the-less.
 
All the best,
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Steve
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