Former members of the Chippenham Starlettes were reunited with its founder, Betty Hooper, when they came to hear her talk at Chippenham Museum on Friday 29 March.
As part of Chippenham Museum’s Objects in Focus series of free talks, Betty spoke about a portrait of herself and her husband Bill, on show in the museum, and told of its presentation to her on the night of the last Starlettes show in November 1979. Betty went on to share tales of her time running the Starlettes and spoke with affection of the group’s very successful 25 years.
Museum Assistant Elaine Davis said “This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Starlettes’ last performance so it was wonderful to have Betty take part in our series of talks and have former members join us in the museum. We would like to celebrate the anniversary further and want to hear from anyone who has memories of the group or memorabilia which we could use in a display.”
The Chippenham Starlettes were formed in 1953 by Betty and Bill Hooper as a dancing school for children. The group held their first performance, ‘Dick Whittington’, at the Neeld in 1954 and continued to stage popular performances both in Chippenham and at the Theatre Royal in Bath. ‘Starlettes Remembered’, a book of memories and photographs charting the success of the group, is available from Chippenham Museum’s shop (£6.95).
Elaine continues “We started the Objects in Focus lunchtime talks programme to run alongside our current exhibition which explores what we do behind the scenes to look after the museum’s collection. However the talks have been so well received that we have decided to add a few further dates later in the year, with a talk planned in May to focus on objects related to Chippenham Folk Festival.”
Chippenham Museum’s current temporary exhibition, ‘What’s in Store: Behind the Scenes at Chippenham Museum’, is open until Tuesday 23 April. Chippenham Museum, a Chippenham Town Council facility, is free to visit and tells the story of the people and history of Chippenham and surrounding villages from prehistoric times up until the present day with a varied programme of exhibitions and events. The museum is open 10am to 4pm Monday to Saturday, including Bank Holidays.
Betty Hooper (middle, back) and members of the Starlettes at Chippenham Museum (Top l-r: Sue Swell nee Thatcher, Val Smith nee Pearce, Ursula Cosentino nee Faulkner, Betty Hooper nee Payne, Karen Saunders, Neil Bishop, Ron Coole. Bottom l-r: Sharon Wedlake nee Kilmartin, Janice Thorne nee Kilmartin, Pauline Iason nee Cole)
Portrait of Betty & Bill Hooper on display at Chippenham Museum
Starlettes pantomine ‘Cinderella’, Neeld Hall, Chippenham, 1979