We have just celebrated the 100th anniversary of our home, The Empire Hall, Graffham. For the last six decades the Graffham Rustics have been performing here.
Before the Graffham Rustics were born, Noel Dicker ran a group known as “Graffham Players” He produced plays in the Empire Hall in the days when the stage was a high platform designed for political speech making.
The Graffham Players - "Night Must Fall" in 1948
When Eddye Loring asked Noel for advice on a musical she had written some ten years earlier, the Rustics were born and staged their first show “Back to the Land”, the story of war time experiences of girls in the Land Army, in 1951. Little did Mrs Loring then know the society she had founded would still be going strong 56 years later.
Eddye Loring in 1951
Jack Pescod, owner of Pescod’s stores had a good tenor voice and his wife played the piano. Many years later, their daughter Anne Compton was Rustic’s leading soprano. The then Rector of Graffham was brow beaten into taking part in the chorus with the promise of extra cash for an electric organ pump for the church. The organ at that time was worked by hand. The result was a cheque for £60 - a huge sum in 1951.
Back to The Land - The First Rustics' Production
The princely sum of two shillings and sixpence (12 ½ Pence) was the Rustic’s membership subscription in the early years, which helped towards hiring the hall for rehearsals from January to May. Tickets cost five shillings (25 Pence) for front seats and one shilling (5 Pence) for the gallery.
By Coronation year, 1953, the Rustic’s had made many improvements for the shows. The stage was lowered and enlarged, an apron built, and a new door made between the dressing room and kitchen.