When visiting Aldeburgh Jubilee Hall you may well have met Jane. She would often be sitting by a small table at the top of the entrance hall stairs, checking tickets and selling programmes. In later life, the Jubilee Hall was her passion and she devoted an enormous amount of time and energy to encouraging theatre companies, musicians and others to perform at the Hall, issuing the necessary contracts of hire, operating the box office, being there to welcome artistes and ensuring their time at the Hall was enjoyable, organising front of house helpers, shopping for and serving interval refreshments, as well as seeing to the other necessary tasks for the smooth running of the Hall. Jane started the popular biannual Aldeburgh Craft Fair and was an important contributor to the success of Aldeburgh Summer Theatre for many years. She was also a very loyal supporter of Jubilee Opera and gave a lot of her time and expertise in promoting their productions.
Who would have thought this very busy person had another life too!
For many years she was the Administrator at Aldeburgh Parish Church and Secretary to the Parochial Church Council. In addition, she would be working one day each week in an office at Portcullis House, opposite the Houses of Parliament, as Secretary of The Parliament Choir, organising several concerts a year at premier London venues, as well as dealing with membership and other enquiries from the MPs and Members of the House of Lords who sang in the choir. Sir Bernard Jenkin MP remarks “She was the rock of the Parliament Choir for quite a period of time.”
Jane enjoyed a fascinating life and career. Her Godmother was Jennifer Vyvyan, the British soprano, who was also godmother to Charlotte Rampling. Jane’s early years were spent in London where, as a teenager, she was a babysitter for Vanessa Redgrave and, as a student, shared a flat with Jessie Norman, then a violinist before later embarking on her career as a singer.
Jane’s parents rented a house in Thorpeness each summer and, if you visit Thorpeness Golf Club & Hotel, you’ll see Jane’s name on the Honours Board for winning a ladies’ golf tournament. It was during these summer visits that Jane fell in love with Aldeburgh and its Festival. She was fortunate enough to be accepted as an Aldeburgh Festival Hesse student and so helped at pre-concert receptions, page-turning for rehearsals and concerts, programme selling and also assisting with some office duties. Later, she assisted Imogen Holst during a number of festivals, as driver and P.A. Jane was an accomplished photographer; she gave a fascinating collection of her photographs of concerts and rehearsals from the 1970s to the Red House.
In her working life Jane was P.A. to Joan Bakewell and for several years worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Barbican Centre. It was there that she met Derek Jacobi, amongst other notable actors, and Jane went on to work with him as Production Assistant for several films and TV programmes. A lovely story Jane recounted was when Derek Jacobi and Ian McKellen were performing with the RSC at The Barbican. It was before the days of video recorders and so they asked Jane if she would arrange for a television to be brought into the wings so that when they were off stage, they could watch parts of the latest episode of ‘Dynasty’. They were avid fans and so Jane wrote to Aaron Spelling (its American TV producer) asking if the RSC might form a Dynasty fan club! He was thrilled with the idea and sent Jane a parcel of T-shirts, printed with the slogan “Royal Shakespeare Company Dynasty Fan Club”. The following year, when the RSC was touring America, Aaron Spelling invited them to a reception at his ranch, where they were greeted by the cast members of Dynasty!
We were indeed fortunate when Jane decided to live in Aldeburgh for, without her enthusiasm, commitment and sheer hard work, the Jubilee Hall wouldn’t be the place it is today; it may well have closed altogether. Modest to the point of self-deprecating, a private person in some ways, Jane quietly just got on with things. I only saw her lose her composure in public once, when a rather demanding visitor to the Hall exclaimed to Jane “I’ll have you know I’m a member of MENSA.”, to which Jane replied, “So what? So am I”.
Jane’s varied career gave her a deep knowledge and insight into the whole spectrum of the performing arts. She knew so much about it, and her experience and advice were invaluable. She was truly a lovely lady, kind and warm-hearted, who will be missed, not just by her family and friends but by so many others, very much indeed.
Written by David Briggs, chair of Aldeburgh Jubilee Hall until May 2017.