Music-making in Basingstoke for the past 36 years

Dear Editor,

Coming to live in Basingstoke in 1984, I discovered a wealth of flourishing musical societies, the Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra (BSO), the Basingstoke Concert Club, Basingstoke Amateur Theatrical Society (BATS), Basingstoke Operatic Society (BAOS) and the Male Voice Choir to name but a few. One of the first things I did was join the Basingstoke Choral (BCS}, directed by David Gibson. It rehearsed in the hall of London Street UR Church.

But where to perform? BSO, the Concert Club and BCS all used Queen Mary’s College Hall and occasionally local churches. The Concert Club attracted such greats as Alfred Brendel, James Galway, Marisa Robles, Imogen Cooper and Evelyn Glennie. Its audiences of 300-400 filled the QMC Hall. It really was a club, with friendly members arranging the seating and serving tea and biscuits in the interval.

The need for a proper concert hall was being mooted by leaders of these societies to Basingstoke Council. This proposition was not without its opponents, but eventually, on May 3, 1994, the Anvil held its opening concert. It featured the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra with Julian Lloyd Webber in a programme of Elgar’s ‘Cello Concerto’ and ‘Enigma Variations’ and Sir John Taverner’s ‘Theophany’. BCS opened the concert by singing the national anthem in full, and later the Anvil Chorus from Verdi’s opera ‘Il Trovatore’.

Ironically, it became apparent that the Anvil was too vast for the typical Concert Club audiences, while the Forge was too small. The Anvil now ran its very own International Concert Series. Hiring the Anvil was costly for amateur societies. The Concert Club, now using the Methodist Church as its venue, decided to widen its repertoire and to include exceptionally talented, “up and coming” musicians. These concerts were delightful and continued on until March 2012.

As the town grew, so did the membership of BSO and BCS. Both were able to enjoy the thrill of performing in the Anvil. The venue attracted top soloists and orchestral players, raising standards and increasing audience numbers.

Now, during lockdown, inventive ways are being devised to nurture the body and mind. The importance of creative arts cannot be understated. This is especially key for children to discover their talents and expand their horizons. Painting, writing, playing instruments together, singing, drama and dancing are all life-enhancing. As part of this, there are musical societies for our youth too: BATs Next Gen and Limelight, offshoots of BATS and BAOS.

Members of any choir will tell you how singing is a joy that lifts their spirits. Our gifted BCS conductor, David Gibson, makes our practises so entertaining, but he also challenges us by demanding our concentration and dedication to achieve of our best, singing works from Bach to Karl Jenkins, Verdi to Will Todd. Whatever the day brings, we always look forward to Choral practise. Tiredness fades, problems are forgotten and one comes away refreshed. 

BCS, like so many, is using Zoom technology to maintain weekly practises, and is always glad to welcome new members. It goes without saying that all music-lovers in Basingstoke can’t wait for the opportunity to get together again to make music and visit the Anvil.

And now it is our turn to please support the Anvil Trust as it faces the BDBC proposal to reduce its funding.

Maggie Morgans, Cliddesden Road

Anvil is so vital to Basingstoke

Dear Editor,

I moved to Hampshire 29 years ago and wondered where I would find good music.

Then the glorious Anvil opened and all was well.

From Bach to Buena Vista, Brubeck to Beethoven with plenty of comedians and dancers in between, it has been a joy.

Then I joined Basingstoke Choral Society and discovered that performing there is equally amazing.

As Basingstoke and Deane Council point out on their website the Anvil has '...some of the finest acoustics in the country,' and  '...has firmly established itself as one of the South's leading venues for high quality live music.'

I agree 100%, so why jeopardize the future of such a great arts organisation when it is so vital to the area?

We need to experience live theatre and music again, community groups need to perform, schools needs the outreach provided by Anvil Arts and Basingstoke needs the footfall from visitors.

I beg the Councillors to reconsider before they do irreparable damage to the cultural fabric of their town.

Clarissa Palmer, Micheldever Station

Support our concert hall

Dear Editor,

Basingstoke has long suffered from an image problem, something which the Council has tried to improve with campaigns such as "A Place to be Proud Of".

It therefore seems especially mystifying that they have now taken the decision to cut the funding to the Anvil by 50%.

In the Anvil we have a world class concert hall which attracts stars at the top of their respective fields, from classical musicians to pop stars to comedians.

The often repeated comment from these people is that they love coming to the Anvil because of the excellent  acoustics.

The Anvil is something we can be justifiably proud of, something that we have that marks us out from other towns, something that brings people into Basingstoke.  

I sat next to a lady there who lived not far from Basingstoke, she told me how impressed and surprised she was by her Anvil experience.  

She said that she had been travelling up to London to go to concerts, but had no idea that she had a top class concert hall on her door step!

It would appear that our Council has scant appreciation of the value of the Anvil to the town and the wider area.

I would have expected support for such a wonderful asset to Basingstoke at this difficult time.  

So come on Basingstoke Council, do the right thing and support our concert hall!.

Julia Townsend-Rose, Cliddesden Rd

Foolish and ill-thought move

Dear Editor, 

I was devastated to learn that Basingstoke Council are going to cut the Arts budget by 50%. This is a foolish and iII thought-out move. The Arts are so important for our mental well-being, especially after the terrible year we’ve had. We need to be cheered up.

The Anvil is the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of Basingstoke and it attracts many people from outside the area which is good for the economy. Since it opened in 1994 I have been to numerous performances there, to pop concerts, to see comedians and dancers and favourite of all to hear world class orchestras like the Philharmonia and to renowned artists like Nicola Benedetti. It caters for all tastes and is loved for its fantastic acoustics. I sing in the Basingstoke Choral Society and we always count ourselves lucky to sing at the Anvil for most of our concerts.

Likewise the Haymarket Theatre is loved by both amateurs and professionals. It is small but full of atmosphere.

Basingstoke council, if you care about the well-being of your citizens please reverse your decision. 

Suad Thrift Oakley, Basingstoke

Need Haymarket Theatre back

Dear Editor,

I have always believed that the Grants allocated by BDBC for the cultural life of this town have been amazing, regardless of whatever political party is in power.

Sometimes it worries me how we spend this money; if the 50% reduction in Grant Aid for Anvil Arts means that the Haymarket Theatre will now have some of this money, this is good news!

We will then be able to reinstate the New Horseshoe Theatre Company with a small team of professionals leading an Army of Volunteers. This will bring The Haymarket Theatre back to its former glory!

There was a time when two organisations – The Haymakers and The Horseshoe Supporters' Club – raised thousands of pounds in support of the Theatre and whilst they were doing it, they made friends for life!

I am suggesting that we go back to the idea of using volunteers but that we give the project a 21st century twist – societies who wish to use the Haymarket at an affordable rent will have their own night when they will supply a team for Front of House duties as well as volunteers to assist the Technical Manager. They will be able to promote their own shows on their special evening in hopefully a very imaginative way.

There is tremendous enthusiasm for this idea and we are already planning a Users' Panel meeting on Saturday May 15 from 2.30 until 4pm in Market Chambers. Cllr Gavin James has agreed to chair the meeting for us. It has to be by invitation-only because of Covid 19 but if you do not belong to any particular society and wish to help please get in touch by email or write to me at  Market Chambers, 2a Church Street, Basingstoke, RG21 7QE.

Hannah Williams, Church Street

Support for Camrose Ground

Dear Editor,

This weeks Gazette shows that support for the Camrose Ground is gathering pace. It is good to read the plans of BTFC and hope of the Community that our heritage will be preserved and 'Built back better'.

The lack of a legal document to protect the Covenant, could mean that the Camrose ground was part of a whole package of Lord Camrose land bought by Compulsory purchase order after the war, under the Government initiative at the time.

I do not have the means to check whether records were held by local Councils or Government, it would mean that BDBC owned the freehold of the whole package, no further legal document was needed.

The mutual parties by agreeing a Covenant, thought to ensure that the Town football club could continue on the portion of land which was already their home.

I hope that this can be investigated if not already considered.

If this has already been researched please ignore it, I have only limited internet access to check progress.

Valerie Silver, Rooksdown

We expect decent sports facilities

Dear Editor,

How I agree with letters from Jim Gould and Donald Herbert in last weeks Gazette calling for further Council investment in sport.

Myself and 3 friends met to discuss Saving the Camrose with Council Leader, Ken Rhatigan, at the ground a few weeks ago. He appeared to change his previously expressed views by acknowledging, the value of the Camrose and its size and location for sports development.

He even suggested that regular Council grants could help support a Basingstoke Town Community Football Club bid to purchase the Camrose. I was encouraged but then wondered how much reliance could be placed on these words when I heard the Council were at that very moment cutting significantly grant support for the Arts!

As far as I am aware no Conservative Councillor or candidate has expressed any public support for saving the Camrose. It would be good if this position could be rectified. It would be fantastic too if there was cross party support for drawing on the Council 's £272 million capital to boost borough amenities and tackle gaps and decline. Basingstoke & Deane Borough Councillors, what are you all waiting for!

What is the point of being one of the richest Councils in the UK! No one is asking you to bankrupt the borough, the people of this town expect decent sporting facilities and art programmes so we and our children and children’s children have areas in which they can attend, watch and express themselves in.

Steve Frangou, Basingstoke

Let’s build back better

Dear Editor, 

I am writing to you as I wholeheartedly agree with last week’s letter from Jim Gould, calling on current and future councillors to act now to save the Camrose. A community sports hub is 100 per cent needed and would be a fantastic common good for the people of Basingstoke.  Beyond that I believe that the Council have a compelling moral responsibility to act. It was the Council and its officers who long encouraged the then football club chairman ‘Rafi Razzak’ to fruitlessly plan to transfer the football club to the Old Common - expecting to make a financial gain from the selling of the Council owned share of the Camrose.  Thwarted by local objections and the loss of council support a frustrated Razzak’s reaction was to acquire the Camrose freehold, side-step the covenant restricting use to sport and plan to sell for ground for personal gain through property speculation. 

For all the good Mr Razzak ever did for the football club, this would be eradicated by persisting with a selfish land grab, causing the greatest damage imaginable.

Hopefully having once undertaken to protect the ground for football Mr Razzak will recognise it’s not too late to return the ground to football. With the council support there is an opportunity to build back better. Under Mr Razzaks stewardship he bore a responsibility to take care of the club for current and future generations. This needs to be upheld!!

Chris Shorey

Local business I love

In response to the April 1 edition’s special feature on Basingstoke’s local businesses readers love.

Dear Editor,

I believe The Squirrels needs to be mentioned.  It opened in 1981 and has served Basingstoke ever since. This amazing little treasure trove is run by Alan.

Amy, Basingstoke

A disgusting behaviour

Dear Editor,

My wife takes a walk pretty much every day around RG22 Kempshott, an area I guess of about four square miles and just over the last four weeks alone she has spotted and “safely” picked up twenty-six (yes, 26) of those pale blue paper disposable masks!

What the hell is the matter with you people? Do you not care about your community, have you no pride, it is disgusting! Kempshott is supposedly a nice residential area to live?

If this is typical of what is happening across the country then we will have mountains of these masks building up to dispose of and here I was thinking that we are supposed to be reducing human waste not increasing it! 

It seems to me that the people are the problem, they are a “waste of space”!

Nigel Johnson, Kempshott

Return the wheelie bin

Dear Editor,

I would like to find the people/person that acquired our grey wheelie bin on the morning of March 25 from Gilbert Close Popley, as it will cost us £28 to replace it and the council will only give us a small bin to replace it, we would like it returned please.

Martin Moore, Gilbert Close

Getting results from HCC

Dear Editor,

At time of writing, I am still awaiting an update from Highways. 

An inspection cover was damaged in December 2020, leading to a large open cavity of some 2m deep ! After three months of no apparent repair, I logged the matter - incident no. 21551038.

Subsequently, the broken cover was promptly repaired (Wednesday of last week). Since then, the temporary traffic lights remain in use, holding up the poor Stagecoach drivers - not to mention the irritation to local residents, caused by loud car stereos, motorbikes revving, cars hooting with impatience. If there is a reason for the temporary lights, HCC can’t - as yet. tell me.

The lack of attention by HCC is just another of the poor experiences that I have had with them (more details available, if required).

It’s not exactly front page news but it may be worth highlighting the fact that getting results from HCC is like pushing water uphill.

Hugh Sawyer, Winchester Roa