Memories of a Party in the Theatre Lab in 1967

We were delighted to receive this extended creative and poetic piece from Alan Martin, Drama and American Studies 1966 – 1969, in which he shares his memories of music and parties on campus in 1967. Join Alan on this trip down memory lane to an evening at a party in the Drama Theatre Lab, with the music, sights and sounds of the era lyrically portrayed in his creative narrative style.

Party ’67

An October night in Cottingham Road. It is black, drizzly. A strengthening wind stirs branches in a line of trees. In slight bunched swirls wet leaves re-commence their autumnal descent, cluttering the pavement.

Figures in ones or twos or threes murmur a passage around the University of Hull sign before hunching resolutely up the main ‘avenue’ that leads ultimately to the various Union Building bars. Tonight there is to be a party in the Theatre Lab, sooner or later.

The party is more or less open to all although it is organised by the Drama Department. Interested ‘outsiders’ can anyway sign in as guests. So no problem there for likely partners!

Of an evening students can walk, bike or even take a bus if the timetable suits. Really depends where your accomodation is. The Halls are a good two miles distant but many reside a good deal closer than that, especially the older, more mature students.

The Theatre Lab is about a third of the way up the main concourse, past the Arts Block, off to the right, tucked at the end of one of the Science Blocks. It used to be a gymnasium of sorts. Now it is a theatre area, of sorts, used exclusively by the burgeoning Drama Department. And a wonderful venue for a good time.

So down a few steps, in at the door, a stamp on the wrist and wonder before.

Light displays were vivid and startling within the black draped walls. Arcs of red, green, blue. white split as shafts  or spun beneath the feet.

Music resonated from a raised stage in the corner. Alongside was a beer barrel –  maybe Bass, invariably a bitter.Occasionally there may be a trestle of nibbles, not much more than crisps, sausages, cubes of cheddar and pineapple. Bring a bottle was popular – it varied the drinking range. I believe the girls, in particular, found Martini, or Vodka concoctions, more congenial. Whisky I do not recall. Too expensive I fancy.

Staff from Drama and American Studies would often attend these parties. They could be tolerated, welcomed, ignored just so long as they ‘behaved’. The Sixties, remember, saw the emergence of social egalitarianism. And Ageism was simply ‘not cool’.

We’re Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
We hope you will enjoy the show
Sit back and let the evening go
Sergeant Pepper’s lonely
Sergeant Pepper’s lonely
Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

And so we were into the swing. The Beatles and all they stood for were absolutely paramount. They were the ‘new’ religion.

People sat or perched on odd chairs, boxes, benches, even wall-bars. A centre space was devoted to gyrations, intimacy, confidences. All in semi-darkness punctuated by spasms of psychedelic light. It was a retreat to munch crisps, sup beer on the sideline.

Less reverent were refrains of ‘Icychoo Park’ by the Small Faces.

To rest my eyes in shades of green
What did you do there?
I got high

Yes, the party was underway. “With a little help from my friends,” – maybe.

As many would appear to gaze at the ‘activities’ of others as make ‘moves’ of their own. This was deceptive. The prevailing mood was one of self-absorption, an interior, ill-defined pursuit of desires, wants, needs, destinies.

A sprinkling of older, more knowing, perhaps influential students could exude an ineffable balm amid the frenzied outbursts of more extreme youth. Between these two groups were inevitable Romantics on the quest of ‘the love of their lives’.

“Everybody needs Love” by Gladys Knight and the Pips, perhaps too “Reach Out” by the Four Tops could help matters along. Between were the more realistic messages of “Strange Days”  by The Doors.

Me, I exulted to what I felt to be the upward, optimistic chords of ‘The Byrds’ ….. “So you want to be a rock and roll star” …. “Eight Miles High”. But I stuck to bitter.

Yes, the party was well under-way. In my extreme youth I was turned on by prettiness, cuteness, a revealing fish-net top.

Other attractions were made-up, vamped, arty, a mite hung-up. Here and there a tight mini-skirt, long legs enveloped in black tights. Occasionally I would glance across to a knot of lads fresh from ‘The Gardeners’ or ‘Howarth Arms’, maybe even ‘Nelly’s’ in Beverley. Looking on to seize up opportunities was quite permissible.

Despite all this there was too a degree of innocence. ‘Good’ girls, nicely turned out, hoping for a pleasant dance, a decent conversation. ‘Hopeless’ boys, vaguely yearning, but incapable of making a move. Instead they would continue to sup beer, babble about halls, lecturers, football, the canteen, cleaners even.

Then there were unusual, again rather ‘special’ girls, who looked fine and were nicely polite yet remote, escorted by companions, a little older, purporting to be musicians – the ‘unattainables’. One or two, you wonder why they came, those semi-intellectuals who always clung to earnest conversation despite Mick Jagger.

He it was of the hips, mouth, limp hands, whirly legs that revived slack interludes with “Ruby Tuesday” …. “Let’s spend the night together” and especially “I can’t get no satisfaction” …. “No, no, no”. He provided so much interior motivation. Many hung, waited on the playing of the Stones.

So the evening wound on for a hundred or so earnest young souls. Fights, aggression, heated arguments even, were unheard of. Overt drunkenness I can hardly recall although several must have been “out of it”.

The final chapter was given over first to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. This was a last chance to be frenzied. But finally, and wonderfully, Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. A poetic opportunity to make up for lost time, a last throw of the dice perhaps, the chance to make contact with ones Hearts Desire. A soft encircling arm.

The last strains marked the finale. Lights-up, snatched farewells, out the door, to the flat refreshing breezes coming off the Humber. Perhaps then a quiet trudge to Halls musing confusedly on food, books, lectures, seminars, tutorials, an essay, the library, shopping, sport, home, maybe church, Hull, the flatness, the wind, railway crossings, fish and chips, Jane, Sophie, Jenny, Geoff, Richard, Bev – take your pick.

In 1969, during the very last days, how poignant they can be, I discovered a party in the Land Of Green Ginger. Here it was I encountered, squatting in an alcove, wearing a kaftan, amid a maze of unruly curls, the ‘mystic’ Italian. She it was who had leapfrogged Greece and gone straight for the arabic essence of Tunisia. “Come together “. Times move on, inexorably.

Alan (squatting, wearing glasses, and holding jacket) with a group of friends after a Sunday morning rehearsal of Reynard

6 thoughts on “Memories of a Party in the Theatre Lab in 1967

  1. The Drama Parties continued to be of legend even after 1967 but were they better than the ones held in Boathouse and did the long walk back to the road at the close of a party in the boathouse sober you up.

    JOHNO’DONNELL

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    1. I suspect “best” or “better” simply depended on how good a time you remember having had.

      ALAN MARTIN

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      1. I went to a few drama parties in my time (officially 79-82 but also 83/84) and yours sounds great. Love the subtle differences between late 60s and early 80s. Plus we had the Gulb by then. I’ve shared this to the FB site Hull Drama Department Reunions Forever Alan so come and join.

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  2. Thanks for the invitation Kieran but I don’t really do Facebook, or Twitter. Just say I lack motivation. Quite happy for you to share though. Drama years 1966/69, 1967/70, between them, have had several reunions dotted throughout the decades but, naturally, nothing can match ‘ the good old days’ and that’s how it should be, I suppose.

    Sad to hear of the passing of Don Roy. He was a pivotal figure – so committed.

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  3. Aye. Well if you change your mind come and join. Otherwise hope to run into you at the next reunion? (2023 will be the Dept’s 60th)!

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  4. Could well be Kieran. I love the city of Hull. Any excuse. Three years time then. You never know what you may find in the land of green ginger!

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