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Letchworth Arcadians is one of the premiere amateur operatic societies in the East of England.
17th October 2019

Latest Newsletter from Letchworth Arcadians

Find out what has been happening in the world of Letchworth Arcadians. Read our latest newsletter here:


From the Chairman’s Cupboard

It has been some time since our last newsletter but that doesn’t mean things have been quiet in Letchworth Arcadians (LA) Land! Many of you came and supported our first performance at The Broadway Theatre in Letchworth in June. It was a lovely venue to perform in and how right it felt, to be right in the heart of Letchworth! Let’s hope it will be the first of many.

Since our AGM in July we have been working hard putting a future programme together. We start with The Sound of Movies at the end of November at The Icknield Centre. Tickets are on sale now and Robert and I are your willing ticket secretaries for this show. Phone the box office (07511 519387) and we will find you a seat round a table where you are guaranteed good sight lines for this showcase of talent! More details later in this newsletter.

In January we start rehearsals for Sondheim’s Into the Woods. This is to be performed at St. Christopher School Theatre 30th May – 2nd June 2018. Details to follow!

At the AGM we also announced that our Spring show for 2019 will be The Sound of Music. It might seem strange to announce shows so far in advance but unless we secure a licence we are not guaranteed a show and some shows, like The Sound of Music, are only released for a short time so we have to jump in quickly! Once a show is secured we like to let our members know so they can plan accordingly.

Deciding on a programme is probably the hardest part of the committee’s work. Trying to find a show to please members young and not so young, as well as our audiences is almost impossible. Selling tickets is becoming increasingly difficult. The traditional shows like Oklahoma! and Calamity Jane aren’t selling; the modern shows like Beauty and the Beast aren’t selling so we have decided to try something different with Into the Woods. Will that sell? Only if all of you, members and patrons, help us by selling tickets. We have cut production costs down to a minimum but we still need to sell more tickets.

This summer has also seen the end of an era as Roger Newman Turner steps down as President of Letchworth Arcadians. Roger has been a staunch member of the society for a number of years and president for the last 14 years. He has been a voice of reason on the committee and a great support to me as Chairman. I am sure you will all join me in thanking Roger for all his work on the society’s behalf and wish him and Birgit, his wife, all the best for the future.

Roger has handed the mantle of Presidency over to Margaret Dinmore who has become our first female President. Margaret has been a member of Letchworth Arcadians for over 40 years and she has held just about every office in the society and is always willing to assist with everything! We are delighted to welcome Margaret to the office of President and know that we will all benefit from her knowledge and wisdom.

Thank you for your continued support of Letchworth Arcadians and I look forward to seeing you at The Icknield Centre for The Sound of Movies!

Mary Driver


A financial update

If you had been at the AGM in July, then you would have seen that the society made a profit over the 4 productions last year which is an excellent achievement! The adult society had profits with Oklahoma! (£1965.00), Thoroughy Modern Millie (£298.00) and the Christmas concert (£1806.00). Young Arcadians also made a profit for their production of Beauty and the Beast (£429.00).

However, we are not so fortunate this year. Our first production of the year, Calamity Jane, made a loss of £1209.00 with ticket sales of 61%. Next, we had the opportunity to perform at the Broadway with our One Night Only concert. This made a small loss of £27.00. The Young Arcadians’ production of Little Shop of Horrors made an even bigger loss of £2821.00 with ticket sales of 47%.

Without budgeted ticket sales, which are currently 80% (which should be achievable) we will no doubt make losses. The committee are very careful when choosing shows, we make sure that we can produce the show in the venues that we choose, we also try very hard to reduce the orchestra costs and keep costume costs to a minimum where possible. We are very fortunate that we receive match funding from Barclays, so for this we are very grateful.

We are really trying to look after the society’s money so that we can all carry on doing what we love to do, "performing".

Sam Brown


Current Production

The Sound of Movies – a showcase celebrating musical treats from the silver screen

Rehearsals are in full swing for the Arcadians’ next production, ‘The Sound of Movies’. This showcase is an exciting compilation of iconic movie hits from the silver screen directed by David Walker and musically directed by Matt Hallas. ‘Unchained Melody’, ‘My Heart Will Go On’ and ‘9 to 5’ are just a few of the firm favourites in this concert’s stunning programme.

Director David Walker is certainly excited about the company’s upcoming performance, "This concert is such a great opportunity for the Arcadians to sing and perform songs they wouldn’t normally get to sing! There is a great atmosphere at rehearsals, and everyone is undoubtedly enjoying singing such classic hits."

The Oscar worthy performance will be showing at The Icknield Centre, Letchworth from the 30th of November to the 2nd of December 2017 with a spectacular Gala night for the final performance. Tickets are available from Letchworth Arcadians box office on 07511 519387.

So come and join us for a night of glitz and glam at the movies with a programme full of celebrated songs and iconic hits. It’s bound to make you fall in love with the timeless classics and box office sensations from across the years all over again!

Sophie Walker

Production Secretary

Young Arcadians

Auditions were held in September and we would like to welcome the following new members:

Alessandro, Gabriel, Lucy, Megan, Sophia and Pippa.

We are delighted that 10 of our talented youngsters are joining us in The Sound of Movies showcase.

Gilly Nott

Membership Secretary

Social events

The quiz night held on Friday 29th September 2017 proved popular – an enjoyable evening was had by all. Thanks to Rachel Chalkley for being quiz master and congratulations to the winners. A profit of £400+ was raised. Fantastic!

Burns Night will once again be held at Baldock United Reformed Church on Friday 26th January 2018. Dig out your tartan and brush up on all things Scottish ahead of this popular and now traditional Arcadian social event! Details to follow nearer the time...

And watch this space for details of our Anniversary Ball!

Dennis Rusted

Social Committee


2017 has been a quiet year for new members but I am pleased to welcome Vicky Flynn, Kristian Lopez and Rachel Bloomfield. I hope that they will have a long and happy association with us.

We are always pleased to welcome new members as others leave and go on to pastures new. It is so good to have new faces join "the family".

Jan Milton

Membership Secretary


Congratulations to Anna and Bill Brewer on the birth of their beautiful daughter Emily earlier this year.

Congratulations to Carl Rutherford and his new bride, Rhonda on their marriage. We wish you every happiness together.


All members of Letchworth Arcadians would like to extend their heartfelt sympathies to Joan Cave on the passing of her husband Mick, to Christine Underwood on the passing of her husband John, to David and Mary Young on the loss of their daughter Karen and to David, Adèle, Lucy and Sophie Walker on the passing of David’s mother Jean. You are all very much in our thoughts and we send our love.

It is with much sadness that we record the recent death of Peter Carrick at the age of 93. Together with his wife, Brenda, they played an important role in the history of Letchworth Arcadians. Peter was, for some years, our publicity manager, using his professional expertise as an author, journalist, and founder of Peter Carrick Associates, one of the country’s leading PR agencies.

Born and raised in Hull, he was the son of a newsagent where he developed his love of the written word. After studying journalism, he wrote for periodicals such as Melody Maker and New Musical Express, before moving to Letchworth to become PR manager for Spirella, the famous manufacturer of women’s foundation garments.

Later, he established PCA locally, producing magazines for commercial enterprises and the Letchworth Garden City Corporation. Peter was also a prolific author of over thirty books on subjects such as motor cycling and biographies of performers such as Barbra Streisand, Bob Hope and Pierce Brosnan.

Brenda performed for many years with Letchworth Arcadians, so Peter was an obvious choice to become our PR man. He helped to master-mind the exhibitions at Letchworth Museum to mark our 25th and 50th anniversaries. He also did the PR for The Singing Waiters, a barber shop sextet of Arcadians who achieved fame on national TV. In recent years, he and Brenda have been loyal patrons, attending many of our productions.

Tributes at his funeral emphasised Peter’s good humour and gentlemanly demeanour. He always referred to Brenda as ‘My Lady’. Our condolences go to her, their daughters, Debbie and Sarah, and their families.

Summer Sabbatical

It’s always lovely to keep in touch with members after they move to pastures new – updates through Facebook help with that. Many of us have been following the photo diary of Liz Briggs as she and Mark continue with their building project in the Orkney Islands. For those of you not familiar with this story, Liz and Mark decided to leave the ‘rat race’ and have settled in the Orkneys following a brief visit the year before. It was a brave move, but one I think many of us have envied! But I’m not sure if many of us actually realised how far away they are from Letchworth…

Well, after holidaying in the Highlands this summer, I can tell you. It’s a bloomin’ long way and much further away than ‘Brigadoon’! 6 hours drive to Dumfries, 2 hours to Dundee, 2 hours to Inverness and 2 hours to John O’Groats. (We took longer about it, a whole week in fact, because I like visiting teashops and Graeme likes visiting distilleries, but that’s another story.)

Just making contact with Liz during our holiday was a task in itself. Mobile phones…there’s a thing…shouting loudly would probably have been more successful, but after about 5 days in which we attempted to have text, Facebook and Whatsapp conversations, Liz finally phoned us as we came over the top of a mountain (one of several – all gorgeous) with news that it was all organised. All we had to do was jump on the ferry from John O’ Groats and 45 minutes later they would meet us in Burwick on Mainland. It was so exciting to see them waving to us from the harbour wall and a lovely day was spent with Liz and Mark in the bustling town of Kirkwall, Mainland before joining the next boat on a beautiful journey past the islands and an hour and a half non- stop chatter and catch up time on the way to Sanday, Liz and Mark’s new home.

Such an adventure and much to see...We were taken to all their favourite spots, introduced to friends (including 5 very inquisitive seals!) everywhere so calm and peaceful - and of course given a grand tour with a thorough look at all the building work and future projects. Liz and Mark have settled into community life, so much so that Liz pretty much cleaned out at the local village show this summer with awards for her dog Boo and her chickens. I even think she would have exhibited Mark if there had been a category for him!

It really was an inspiring visit and we know that they are looking forward to a time when the house is finished and they can welcome more Arcadian friends to the Orkneys. But, beware, you’ll be given the Scappa Whisky Orkneyan welcome! As for the journey home, think ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ because it may as well have been a flying car!

You could of course fly from Luton to Aberdeen (1 1/2 hours) and get the boat from there to Kirkwall (50 mins) but that way you miss a lot of Highland Teas...

Elizabeth Shaw

Past President’s Postscript

A retrospective

As the curtain has come down on my time as president I thought it would be interesting to look back on the productions we have mounted since Bob Smith handed over to me fourteen years ago. Have our shows met the expectations of our audiences? Have they given the pleasure of participation to our members? Have our attempts to introduce more modern musicals to our repertoire been worth the challenge or have they placed a strain on our financial resources?

I am indebted to our resident statistician, Sam Brown, who has conducted an in-depth analysis of our productions since 2000 and has revealed some interesting trends (which, no doubt, the committee will be studying carefully). I shall confine my review to the term of my presidency.

Since autumn 2003 we have staged 21 full-scale musicals (one of which was semi-staged) and nine concerts of which five were Christmas concerts and the remainder cabaret or compilation programmes – A Grand Night for Singing (2011), Musical Diamonds (2013), Cabaret Showcase (2014), An Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein Classics (2015).

Ten of the stage musicals were loss-making of which all but one were at the Gordon Craig Theatre. (Remember, these were also when we were doing two shows a year.) Whilst the modern, more adventurous shows were all loss-makers (Copacabana, Little Shop of Horrors, Godspell, Honk!) they were by no means the only ones. Some of the old favourites, such as Kiss Me, Kate! (2009), Sweeney Todd (2013), The Merry Widow (2010), and Crazy for You (2010), all cost us dearly. These were all expensive shows to stage at a time when hire of the GCT was also becoming increasingly costly. But when you look at sales (tickets and programmes), which, since 2000, had been consistently between £30,000 and £40,000 there was a noticeable and catastrophic plummeting with Little Shop of Horrors (2011) from which we have never fully recovered.

This could reflect the very traditional tastes of our patrons but it is a trend that has afflicted all amateur musical societies. It forced upon us a withdrawal from the GCT and an ‘interregnum’ from 2013 to 2015 when we had to forgo any staged shows and mount only low-cost concerts –all of which managed to turn modest profits. With judicious budgeting, ruthless cost-cutting, and the more modest venue of St Christopher School Theatre, we have managed to remain in profit. Admittedly, the three fully-staged shows we have put on since the interregnum – Fiddler on the Roof, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Oklahoma! – can be considered ‘stock repertoire’.

The Young Arcadians have fared a little better. In the period under consideration they have done fourteen shows, making a loss on only five which were all at the Plinston Hall.

Significantly, the best sales (and profit) were for High School Musical (2008) which may say something about the tastes of the younger generation. Of course, YAs can always guarantee a good following with ‘their sisters and their cousins and their aunts’.

So, what do our audiences really want? It would be a shame if a society of our calibre could not occasionally put on more innovative and modern shows. If the old standards were to make enough profit to subsidise the unusual stuff we could probably attract new punters and performers but the decline in ticket sales of recent years doesn’t make that a viable option.

That we have survived some difficult years with high quality productions is a testament to the quality and imagination of our production teams and (to lapse into political cliché) our hard-working committee who have to hack their way through the dense jungle of box office vicissitudes, the preferences of our patrons and performers, the availability of performing rights and balancing the bottom line.

As we go Into the Woods, let’s hope the trees don’t obscure our vision for a thriving future.

Roger Newman-Turner



If you have any suggestions or would like to contribute anything for our next newsletter, please email gilly.mac@hotmail.co.uk

Gilly Mackilligan