Crypt Hall, youth activities

A new church hall
Opened in 1964, the large crypt hall [left] was used in a variety of ways, in accordance with the Rector's vision, which is spelt out in this retrospect. He wanted it first and foremost to become a centre for music and drama.

The playwright and poet Leo Aylen wrote two plays for performance in churches by professional actors together with local young people: The Adoration of the Magi, written in Oxford, and George, which was premiered here in 1966, with Timothy West leading the cast in the opening run. See here for further details (provided by Leo), including Terry Coleman's review in The Guardian.

Rehearsal space
With its large stage, the hall was used by several West End productions and major orchestras.
The Royal Shakespeare Company rehearsed here for a time; Peggy Ashcroft allegedly said Why can't we always rehearse here - the acoustic is marvellous.

Dolly Goes East - the £100,000 show destined for WC2 gets off the mark in a blitzed church in E1,  reported the Daily Mail on 18 November 1965, two weeks before the opening of the show Hello Dolly at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. With two dancers from the Broadway musical, its star, Mary Martin, walked to work through Stepney's dismal streets ... Yesterday it was in rehearsal in the crypt fo the once-blitzed church of St George-in-the-East in Cannon Street Road. Miss Martin, 51, reached the East End via New York and Vietnam, where she has been entertaining US troops. She was last in London 13 years ago for South Pacific. She says, "I love all of London - it's a second home". Why the East End rehearsals? A company official explained "It's very difficult to get a rehearsal room with sufficient space. At St George's crypt there is floor space for a large company".

Pop music events
The size of the hall also enabled occasional commercial events. In 1964, the East End Sound contest was held here. The final, won by The Walkers, attracted an audience of 650.

Youth Club and trips

Christopher Bird, curate from 1963-66, established a youth club (the 'One Under Club') in the crypt hall. A particular focus of his work was getting young people to organise events for the elderly. Under the title 'Young Good Samaritans of the East' the Evening News of 29 January 1965 reported that the 25-strong youth club, following a New Year concert for the elderly, was planning a visiting rota, with the boys offering decorating and the girls spring-cleaning.

At a parish party in 1965, marking the first anniversary of the rededication (when the new bells were blessed and rung for the first time) teams were divided into 'George' and 'The Dragons' for games. 'George' won - but only just, the Dragons putting up terrific panting resistance according to a press report.

Fr Bird also organised summer holiday trips, including Teignmouth in 1965 (sharing the Strathearn Hotel for 8 days with young people from St James Purley, at a cost of £8 10s. a head), Lyme Regis in 1966 (for boys under 15 who were members of church youth groups - staying at a very low charge at St Gilda's School, with the sisters of the convent there - left -  the tall boy in the picture is Peter Maurice, now Bishop of Taunton, whose parents helped to organise the trip), and in the same year a youth weekend at Westgate-on-Sea (£2 10s. a head) - the duplicated leaflets show how things were done in those days.

Parish Socials
Here are some press pictures of parish socials - Shrove Tuesday pancake parties, and events for pensioners. Right is an account of a crockery-smashing stall, at the first parish fête held in the Gardens after the church rebuilding. See here for more pictures of fairs and trips in this period; and here for an account of a more unusual hall letting.....

Parish pantomimes
When Gillean Craig was Rector, he wrote and directed a parish pantomime each year around Epiphany -  scripts available on request! They picked up themes in local and national church life. These are the titles:
1989  ? Sort of Cinderella
1990  Georgilocks and the Three Developers
1991  Babes in the East
1992  George and the Beanstalk
1993  The Sleeping Beauty
1994  Reverend Hood and His Merry Persons
1995  St Georgerella [Cinderella]
1996  Rectory Revels, or There's No Place Like Home
1997  George Eastington and His Cat
1998  Aladdin and His Marvellous Sanctuary Lamp
1999  Babes in the East
2000  George and the Beanstalk, or There's No Place Like Dome
2001  Prince's Progress

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