Jellicoe: the Musical script

Found: donated by actor Debbie Radcliffe, who played Edith Neville

Date: 2003

Rob Inglis had the idea for a musical about the work of Jellicoe and the housing reformers. Angela Inglis, a teacher at Acland Burghley School, invited me in and I got to know Rob Inglis, a very enthusiastic larger than life character. He was born in Australia but had spent many years in England acting and writing works for the stage. He had also produced a spoken version of the entire Tolkien works Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

He knew of my interest in Somers Town and he talked enthusiastically about a way of presenting the colourful past to new audiences. I loaned him various publications and then he began to visit me often in Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre as I looked after the St Pancras Housing Association’s archives of hundreds of photos, news cuttings, pamphlets, newsletters, books etc.  After looking at the fascinating material he enthused more and more about creating a musical on the life of Basil Jellicoe. 

A theatrical company was formed – Jellicoe-Neville Performing Arts and a group of us with various skills volunteered to run it. Apart from myself there was Carol Baxter, John Carrol, Mark Reid, Cllr Roger Robinson, Cllr Barbara Hughes, Rob Inglis, Josie Hollis, Father Rob Wickham from St Mary’s (now elevated to Bishop of Edmonton)  [forgive me if I have forgotten anyone] Rob Inglis was the Artistic Director and Peter Marshall created the music. We met usually in The Hill-Wood Centre, Polygon Road or Rob’s home.

I helped discuss some of the draft scripts Rob was creating as he wanted as much as possible for accounts to be authentic as well as a great story. His ideas so often sparked me to find snippets that he could use. I found a file of letters from Mrs Fry to the Housing Association and their replies. She was one of the very first tenants in Gee Street in the first properties the Housing Association purchased. Her husband was frequently in and out of prison and she often had no money and help was generously given by the Association. He incorporated the story into the musical and used the letters – merely changing her name. I had met the descendants of Mrs Fry and they were invited to performances of the musical.  

Things began to take off like a rocket and the adventure began. I don’t think I had ever before been in the meetings of an organisation where new songs and music formed part of the proceedings and wine flowed. Appeals went out to recruit local people, including children and he found some incredible actors to join us and I hope many are here tonight.

The Shaw Theatre was booked for 16-26 October 2003 and was filled for every performance. I carried out the only theatrical role I was qualified for – being an usher and showing people to their seats! Everyone enjoyed it and it was talked about locally for a long time afterward. The songs and the acting stuck in my own mind for ages. I think Jellicoe is the only Anglican priest to inspire an entire musical. Throughout all of this I was spellbound by the way so much was created by Rob Inglis and those he gathered round him. All on a shoestring budget.

The story did not end there. There were proposals for other plays and musicals and in the meantime he created a travelling troupe of performers called the Musical Flying Squad to go round schools, committee centres, festivals, etc with exciting performances on a range of themes and subjects. All of that is another story itself.

By Malcolm Holmes