We hear from Lynne Chellingworth who got in touch with us after discovering some old copies of our first staff newsletter, the Kingland Weekly Star, that recalled such a happy time in her life.
“It was the most fantastic time, it hardly felt like work to be honest. It remains one of the most enjoyable times of my life. I was 21 years old, living with my aunt in Lytchett Minster and working for a temping agency at Wessex Water on the Nuffield when the woman who paid me said she was going to work at Poole Arts Centre and suggested I apply, which I did and got the job.
I was Information Administrator and Receptionist, so I worked on the front desk, but in the days before the centre opened, we all did whatever was needed, so I would be taking posters around, getting everything ready, whatever needed to be done.
Joe Terry, who was the marketing officer was a larger-than-life character and swept everyone up in his enthusiasm. He had us taking posters and leaflets all over town. That carried on long after we opened. I remember one time he sent me over to the Marine base (at Hamworthy) with a big pile of leaflets for the summer show Crowther’s In Town because we needed some more numbers in.
I remember during that summer season Leslie Crowther used to invite us out to see his Rolls Royce that was parked round the back. He was the only one who was allowed to park there, and he used to ask us if we’d like to see his car. It sounds wrong, but it was all so innocent at the time, he was genuinely a lovely man.
I ended up lodging with Joe Terry and his partner Josie Wieland, they had met at work, in a house down near the Quay in Barbers Piles and we’d sit up to all hours putting this newsletter together, the Kingland Weekly Star. It was such fun, very much of its time, the 1970s. I recall being a bit annoyed that Joe wanted to use pictures of female staff members in various states of undress and he finally agreed to have a picture of a young male staff member. Not really a solution though – just a different type of exploitation. It was just a bit of fun, but the thing was there was such a lot going on at the arts centre and not everyone that worked there knew, so it was a way of sharing information and letting everyone know what was happening.
We were always doing things for publicity, to try to get in the Advertiser. One time Joe convinced them to do a story about me because I was Canadian, 21 and not bad looking basically. The headline was ‘Lynne is such a cute Canadian’, terrible really. So, the paper came out and within days we had a visit from immigration officers. It turned out that the father of a girl who had applied for my job had shopped me and they turned up to check I was working legally. I was of course, but it was worrying.
When I left the agency to go to Poole Arts Centre, Wessex Water offered me a full-time job and in those days – before privatisation of course – it was a civil service job, with good benefits and all that, but I didn’t care. I wanted to work at the arts centre where I thought I’d taken a job for £2,100 a year, but it turned out it was for £2,001… that was a big difference in 1978 when I was trying to run a Mini and give my aunt some board!
I remember Prince and Princess Michael of Kent came to a BSO gala and everyone went overboard to make one of the toilets as nice as it could be with flowers and what have you. Of course, when they arrived she shot straight through the front doors to this little loo that was next to the old box office and never even saw the one they’d smartened up!
I was very impressed by the standard of big ticket performers that Poole Arts Centre attracted when it opened. Ballet Rambert was brilliant, the RSC with Ian McKellen, that felt like a really big deal and he was brilliant, Johnny Mathis, Patricia Phoenix in My Cousin Rachel, but that was dreadful.
Anyway, I was there from the February to the autumn when I decided to go back to Canada as I was homesick. I wish I’d not left but had taken extended leave or something. Anthony Covell, the director at Poole Arts Centre, who was a lovely man, said I could have my job back if I returned but I didn’t.
Eventually I moved back to Dorset with my husband in 1991 and have been a regular at Lighthouse, as it is now, for plays and the BSO but mainly for the cinema. I meet up with friends and I love the more obscure little films shown there. It’s just the right size and the changes they’ve made to Lighthouse have been for the best. I’m really looking forward to going back.”