Wiltshire Publications

Westbury U3A November report

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 5th, 2017 at 9:44 am.

Members were enthralled hearing about The Bob Hope Theatre in Eltham, SE9, presented by Jim Shepherd and John Goodwin.  U3A  members heard the story of how Eltham Little Theatre was rescued with the help of Bob Hope.

The Little Theatre was formed in 1942 and gained a permanent home in Eltham Parish Hall in 1946. Many local societies staged productions and unsuccessful efforts were made to buy the premises, but by 1979, the lease was not renewed and the premises were up for sale. Closure loomed –  then Bob Hope came to the rescue.

Bob Hope was born in Eltham in 1903 and his family moved to USA in 1908. However he had a great deal of affection for his birthplace and was a great fundraiser for charities. The 1980 and 1981 Bob Hope Classic Golf Tournaments in Britain raised £58,000 for the direct benefit of Eltham Little Theatre Limited, and a similar sum for the Stars Organisation for Spastics (SOS). The money was to be used for the purchase of the premises and as a start on the refurbishment of the building.

In September 1982, Bob Hope visited the theatre again, met by a tumultuous reception which he clearly appreciated. He unveiled the new name of ‘The Bob Hope Theatre,’ a bust of himself (he did not like the nose) a special plaque in the foyer and a portrait. He was also made an Honorary Co-President of the theatre; the other Co-President, Gerald Ford, was a close golfing friend.

Clips from Bob Hope’s films and news clips of his visits to Eltham punctuated the talk, giving a fascinating insight into both the theatre and the person who helped to rescue it. Today, the Hope family maintain contact with the theatre which continues from strength to strength.

The 12th  December meeting is the Christmas tea – would any members who wish to go and have not yet booked a place, let the social secretary know.

January 9th 2018 sees a return to the URC Church Hall when we hear from a visitor to the Antarctic.

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