Basildon Operatic Society Potted History

BasOP - the society for musical theatre in Basildon

Back in late 1929, ‘Pop Holland’ decided to raise funds to purchase football kit for his choir boy team. He would get them to perform a musical in the church hall. It was said that the real reason was to keep them off the streets on a Saturday morning.

March 1930 saw the show ‘Pirates of Penzance’ put on by St Mary’s Athletic Club with a budget of £23. Entrance was by donation so that copyright did not have to be paid. They ended up with a profit of 2/6d (12.1/2p)

In 1932 the name was changed to St Mary’s Club and again in 1937 to St Mary’s Amateur Operatic Society and started performing at the Laindon High Road School (now demolished).

In 1947 after being closed due to the war (most members were in the services) they started again and once more changed the name to Laindon & District Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society to show that they represented the whole area and not just St Mary’s, Langdon Hills. The rehearsals took place on a Tuesday and have remained on this day ever since.

Can you spot Joan Sims?

In 1961 a change of venue with performances taking place at the Old Laindon Community Centre; then in 1963 due to the encroaching New Town and to stop competition, the name was changed once again, this time to Basildon Amateur Operatic Society.

In 1969 the society began performing at the much missed Basildon Arts Centre and then in 1976 at the new Towngate Theatre. 1991 saw yet another change by dropping the ‘amateur’ to just ‘Basildon Operatic Society’ as we believed that patrons were put off by the title. In 2004 a logo of ‘BasOp’ (the Society for Musical Theatre in Basildon) was introduced which you will see on our website and posters etc.

Due to the closure of the Towngate for a number of years, the society has performed at various other venues. These have included Fryerns School, Woodland School, Thameside Theatre in Grays and Eastwood Theatre School.

Christmas concert at St Nicholas Church, December 2007

Today the society has a membership of approximately 60 people of all ages and doesn’t only perform full size musicals but also cabarets, plays and a series of Christmas concerts each year.

A few of our members have gone on to perform on the West End stage, films and even Glyndebourne Opera, most notably Joan Sims of the “Carry On” fame.

I believe we are the only Laindon entertainment group from the 1930s still performing.

If you want to know more about the society or forth coming events, please go to the BasOp website.

In the meantime we look forward to seeing you at one of our shows.


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  • The “Miss Hatherall” referred to below was indeed Doris Hatherall, daughter of The owners of “Hatherall’s”. Her brother was Laurie Hatherall. Doris married Fred Collison, and produced my brother Denis, and I. Doris Collison was of course “Mrs Collison” teacher at Laindon High Road, and a member of the Langdon Players, and later the New Repertory Co. The “Miss” Hatherall that married policeman Simon Wells was in fact Mrs Hatherall (Doris’s mum). She married Simon Wells after her first husband died. 

    By Trevor Collison (23/08/2013)
  • Re Joan Baterip’s contribution to this page dated 2/12/12. Yes. That was it Joan, Cliff. I have no recollection of his wife nor his surname (Becket) but there was a brother. Yes he was a very nice chap. 

    I have no knowledge of how the Langdon Players were structured but Cliff Becket had to be one of the movers and shakers. Presumably there was a Board of Directors of some description and certainly there had to be some financial oversight. 

    They did present a wide variety of productions. Everything from George Bernard Shaw to Agatha Christie. The Ghost train, to which you refer was written by Arnold Ridley in the 1920’s and concerns a station master who tells stranded passengers that whoever sees a ghost train will meet death. It would have been appropriate for Joan Sims (a station master’s daughter of course) to have been a cast member. She was certainly very active in the Langdon Players but I imagine she was long gone from Laindon by this time.

    By Alan Davies (04/12/2012)
  • Have just had another think about the Beckett’s, which I am pretty sure was spelt with 2 T,s (my mistake) and I seem to recall that he was the Producer of the Laindon Players at this time, I may be wrong, but somewhere along the line I seem to have heard this. Regards

    By Joan Baterip (04/12/2012)
  • Joan. Your memory is spot on. According to the 1949 Electoral Register, your friend’s parents Joan A and Clifford N Beckett, lived at “Windsor House”, Windsor Road, Laindon. Best wishes.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (04/12/2012)
  • Alan is correct in respect of Sid Salmon who was in fact employed by the gas company. I was hoping to glean some information as to whom he married if not Joyce Barfield. 

    As to his playing along side ‘Ginger’ James, who was only slightly younger than Sid and despite being ‘long in the tooth’, managed a very competitive spell with Walthamstow Avenue, one of the better amateur sides. 

    Miss Hatherall (whom I believe may have been Doris) was a member of the Hatheralls who ran a hardware shop and had a brother Laurence who played in the Laindon Bicycle Polo team, however in those days their shop was on North Parade next to the post office and which in later years was occupied by Ling’s.

    By W.H.Diment (03/12/2012)
  • Looking back. I find there was more than one group supplying operatic entertainment for prewar Laindon, as on the 6th, 7th & 8th of April 1936, the Laindon High Rd. School presented ‘The Golden Amulet’, an operetta in three parts. The entrance fee was 1 shilling, which was rather expensive for those days. Regretfully I have no information as to the artists.

    By W.H.Diment (03/12/2012)
  • Alan and William. According to the BMD records, Sidney E Salmon married Joyce R Barfield at Brentwood in 1942. Hope this helps.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (03/12/2012)
  • Further to Alan Davies and the the Laindon Players. I did have a photograph of them performing at The Essex Country Club, given to me by a Miss Hatherall (whose christian name escapes me) and who married a local policeman, PC Wells. Regretfully I cannot find it and the only name I recall to mind on it was Joan Cockerill. 

    Alan speaks of Sid Salmon and his wife yet whom I believe to have been from a different generation. Sid would be 93 years of age today. Also I remember Sid’s long term girlfriend was Joyce Barfield whom I knew quite well and thought he had married, but as far as I knew had no connection to the Laindon Players. Still the onset of war interrupted many friendships which were never resumed.

    By WH.Diment (02/12/2012)
  • If my memory serves me right, when I was small I used to play with Heather & Stephen Becket in the house on the lefthand side of Windsor Hill (at the top). Their parents were Joan and Cliff Becket who I am pretty sure were members of the Laindon Players. 

    I also think in the time I used to go to their house, they were rehearsing for “The Ghost Train”, I’m sure I haven’t dreamed this up, they were lovely people who always made you feel welcome in their house. 

    Another thing I remember was that they had a peach tree in their front garden, they lived next door to the Gannon family. I lived on the corner of Sandringham Road and Buckingham Road at this time. This would have been about 1958.

    By Joan Baterip (02/12/2012)
  • Further to Bill Diment’s comments of 02/12/2012. On the matter of Sid Salmon’s age. If Sid would have been 93 today that would place him at age 29 to 32 when I watched him play beside Ginger James between 1948 to 1951. A bit long in the tooth perhaps for competitive football but not impossible. I think I remember that Sid’s job was reading gas meters. 

    I wonder if the Miss Hatherall referenced had a connection with Hatherall’s the hardware shop located next to Sid Clifford the greengrocer. Sid Clifford was in partnership with George Baker who had a nursery and a couple of greenhouses behind the shop. I worked for old Mr Baker on Saturdays for a while to earn a little pocket money. 

    Although the Langdon Players operated in Laindon (at least during my time) the name indicates that they may have started life “up the hill”.

    By Alan Davies (02/12/2012)
  • Very interesting. While the organization has changed its name several times, to me it will always be the Laindon Operatic Society. This is the name I knew it by in the 40’s and 50’s. 

    A few names from that era would include Jeanne Archibald who married my cousin Tony. Eileen Cullington who I courted for a short time (or attempted to court would be a more accurate phrase) but she was patently not interested, and the wife of Sid Salmon the talented Laindon inside right. I’m afraid I do not remember her first name. She often had a leading role. 

    In this sites now quite voluminous articles I can find no detailed reference to the Langdon Players who competed for Laindon’s very limited discretionary income. Surely we have some dedicated thespians with long memories (Bill Diment comes to mind in the latter regard at least) who can put some flesh on the bones. 

    The few names that come to mind during that same 40’s and 50″s time period are Joan Hutton (often the leading lady), Brenda Buckenham, and Jim Grindle. The leading organisers were a couple of brothers who lived on the left hand side as you went up the hill from the Winston Club. I remember going to a read through of a play at their house.

    By Alan Davies (30/11/2012)

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