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Lucilla DS goes back a long way, all the way to 1920, when a group of friends presented The Merchant of Venice, and called themselves the Lucilla Amateur Dramatic Society, after their founder's wife, Lucille Bond. The Society, recently renamed Lucilla Dramatic Society, is now the longest - established drama company in the Crosby area, with an unbroken production record that even defied a World War.
Esther Matthews writes:
Trams ran on Coronation Road, many Crosby streets were lit by gas and "the movies" were still silent when, in 1920, a group of Crosby amateur actors and actresses formed a society to present plays, both for their own entertainment and to help local charities.
Some of the group, calling themselves ‘The Lucillas’ had already been entertaining troops in World War One (1914-1918). The new company retained the name, in honour of Lucille Bond, wife of their founder, and the Lucilla Amateur Dramatic Society (Blundellsands and Crosby) as it was then called, was born.
In 1995, the "baby" celebrated its 75th birthday, making it the oldest amateur dramatic society in the area, and today's members are heirs to three-quarters of a century of hard work, happiness and achievement, inspired by sheer love of the theatre. The Society held a celebration party, and no doubt some older members looked back wistfully to pre-TV days, when numbers were so great membership had to be closed and the company could stage a play with 36 characters and eight changes of set!
Initially, rehearsals were held in members' homes and plays performed in local church halls, or at Crane Hall (now the Neptune Theatre) in Liverpool.
Many productions were toured to festivals and collected top awards. Archive press cuttings tell how, having won the Watterson Trophy with "Housemaster" at Morecambe in 1938, the company stopped on the way home to help rescue farm animals trapped by a fire. The report praises their actions, but states that "...several ladies damaged perfectly good handbags and gloves!"
LOOKING BACK: Members of Lucilla ADS are pictured here in their 1938 production of "The Housemaster’. The cast (from left) are: Jessie Crossley, John Crossley, Ian Saddler, Kenneth Longbottom, Iris Lawson (now Collinson), George Eggleston and Lillian Sewell. Dr Iris Collinson (third from right) was still acting and directing with the Lucilla DS until her health failed, taking a constant interest in all 'matters Lucilla', being President for several years before her death.
About this time, the society rented a rehearsal room at 32a Liverpool Road, and soon after, began presenting plays at Crosby's Alexandra Hall. World War Two saw Lucilla members, often as the "True Blues" concert party, touring the area with short plays and revues, to help wartime charities.
The society's present club-house was bought in 1952. A former telephone exchange, "Lucilla House" now contains full studio theatre, scenery and costume facilities, plus a members' lounge, and a small bar. It was officially opened on May 24, 1953, by the then president of Lucilla ADS, Mr. H. W. Peck.
In 1966 the annual Lucilla One-Act Play Festival was launched which attracted competing teams from all over the North West. In 1995, Lucilla won for the first time in nine years. Regrettably, after running for 40 years, the last Lucilla Festival took place in 2005, the end of an era.
Hundreds of people have helped shape Lucilla over the past years, but some names stand out. Wilfred Pickles, the actor and broadcaster, with his wife Mabel, acted in and directed plays for the society in the 1930s. Local chemist Stanley Clegg (alias Stanley Clayton) wrote a number of plays in the 1960s, all premiered by Lucilla, which went on to professional production. A young actor named Edward Arthur (Ted Edwards to his friends) was another who made the switch from amateur to professional theatre and TV.
But for members, the outstanding name must be that of Edith F. Cassady, MBE, guiding light of the Lucilla for 48 years, until her death in 1967. Actress, director, musician, her talents were endless, and her name lives on through the in-house trophy awarded annually for best studio production, as well as the Festival Shield for Endeavour.
Lucilla DS has been an established feature of Crosby cultural life for many years.
A different generation now carries on the society's traditions, but the aims of those 1920 pioneers have been amply fulfilled. Hundreds of plays have been produced, thousands of pounds donated to charity. In the process, a lot of people have found a very satisfying hobby. Some have even found their future.
More Lucilla History: read about our World Premiere! The information is an extract from the extensive Archive provided by our long-time Member, Aileen Ward. As time permits, more information will be added from this most fascinating Archive of Lucilla history.