Back for Basil! Musical tribute to a priest who was talk of town

All our welcome to Jellicoe: The Musical at the St Pancras Old Church on Wednesday (December 1) from 6pm.

Thursday, 25th November 2021 — By Dan Carrier

Father Basil Jellicoe, who transformed housing in Somers Town. Picture: Camden Local Studies and Archive Centre

Basil Jellicoe [Camden Local Studies and Archive Centre]

FORMER cast members are to reunite for a one-off performance of a musical about a radical priest who helped transform Somers Town.

Jellicoe: The Musical at the St Pancras Old Church is a fundraiser for a new museum about the area’s history set to open in the spring and will bring back recollections of when it was staged – on a much bigger scale – at the Shaw Theatre back in 2003.

Organisers hope that running through it again will serve as a tribute to its author Rob Inglis, who died earlier this year. He lived in Goldington Crescent with his wife, Angela Inglis, in 2015, who was also a community campaigner up until her death.

He had researched the life of Reverend Basil Jellicoe – the priest who wanted to put an end to slum housing in the 1920s. It is now 100 years since he arrived in Somers Town.

Jellicoe’s never-say-die spirit is well documented – against the odds he even opened a pub for people in the area, inspiring the musical’s lyrics: “What? A parson running a pub? From the pulpit to the bar, it’s really going too far.”

Debbie Radcliffe, who has helped organise next week’s event and edited the script to a more manageable run-through, said: “I personally think it’s important to record and commemorate the history of Somers Town, because its character is in danger of being obliterated by all the development creeping in from Euston and King’s Cross.

“It does have an interesting history – of which the Jellicoe story plays a part.”

She has contacted the original cast to see if they could reprise their roles.

“I roped in a few other actors I know, a couple of local residents, including a teenager, and Father Paschal from St Mary’s Somers Town who will play Father Jellicoe,” she said. “In the 2003 production Rob Wickham, then the priest at St Mary’s, played Father Percy Maryon-Wilson. Although he is now the Bishop of Edmonton, he will be joining us on Wednesday to read the role of Percy again. So there is a nice sense of continuity.”

She added: “I suppose the project began when I was contacted several months ago by Diana Foster, who has initiated the Somers Town Museum, as she found my acting CV online and noted I had played Edith Neville in 2003. I said I still had a copy of the script. I had also digitalised the video of the original production and put it on YouTube. We basically decided to ‘do something’ as a tribute to Rob and to fund-raise for the museum.”

Museum co-founder Esther Leslie told the New Journal how the new museum – which will be based in a former dry cleaners in Phoenix Road – will include traditional exhibitions and displays, but also host events telling Somers Town stories with workshops and a “memory cafe”.

Ms Leslie said: “We are calling it A Space For Us – a place for history, education and culture. Part of it will cover a core function of museums, such as exhibitions, but it is also about people, movements, ideas.”

She added: “We want to hear contemporary oral histories – people who recall Somers Town in the 30s, 40s and 50s.

“Somers Town has seen an incredible amount of change and it feels particularly threatened with disappearance. I think for people to be at ease where they are,  it helps to know what went before them, it helps you to understand yourself. Current memories are the history of the future.”

A huge archive of photographs and films are being amassed.

All our welcome to Jellicoe: The Musical at the St Pancras Old Church on Wednesday (December 1) from 6pm.

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