The Court Estate Concert Party - As Remembered by Jean Hunt in 2007 - Typed by Donna Aitken
I do not know when the Court Estate Concert Party was formed. I was first aware of it around the mid 1950's. Doreen Wilford who lived next door to us in Bedford Road at the time played the piano for them. A Mrs.Thompson lived in a bungalow which was at the Avenue Road end of Newton Road Rushden. Her husband's work took them abroad quite a lot, but when they were home for any length of time, Mrs Thompson would get things such as a keep fit club running in the Nissen hut which was situated at the top right of Higham Park Road junction onto Avenue Road, Rushden. There is now a bungalow on the site.
The Nissen hut is where Mrs. Thompson started the Concert Party. It was at the time just that, a concert party, with local people doing "turns". This was exactly what was needed in those days of hardly any transport other than the occasional bus and one's bike. Very few people had cars. Mrs. Thompson's hard work always resulted in a pleasant evening's entertainment. However, she presumably moved away and the concert party was no more until sometime after this Peter Whelan and Christopher Taylor both of whom I believe lived in the Newton Road vicinity revived it, calling it "The Court Estate Players".
The Nissen hut I think belonged to St Mary's Church in Rushden. Services were held in it every Sunday with a Sunday school for the children. All denominations used it turn and turn about. We'd attend all of them, so it became a close knit community. All sorts of meetings etc. were held in the hut.
For the Court Estate Players use a curtain was pulled around the altar, and the seats were put facing the opposite way with the kitchen area becoming the dressing rooms. Peter Whelan, being an artistic type (a sort of "Ivor Novello") began to write and score his own musical plays. This was when my children were no longer small babies and I began to get involved in about 1960. The plays were romantic comedies mostly.
The group became very popular in the local area with members coming to join from Rushden, Sharnbrook and Harrold, and there were often over 25 people in the cast. We began to perform in other halls in the area as well, including Park Road Methodist and Rushden High Street Chapel Halls.
We had real life romances within the group, with at least two couples meeting and getting married. A Mrs. Doris Narracott, who lived in Avenue Road, began to paint the scenery for us. She was a very skilful at it. We had to make our own costumes.
Strangely I do not remember why it all folded up. Maybe Peter moved away from the area, but we had performed quite a number of his musicals and were a very happy group.