The Albert Hall is a grand old girl recently gussied up and now given a history in print for all to know and understand why we older Canberrans love her so much. Lenore Coltheart has been consumed by this project to research, write and produce the book, Albert Hall, and what a pleasure it is from the impressive cover with our Glad, Gladys Moncrieff, on the cover to the pleasure of the launch sitting in her spacious surrounds without the crappy old seats I remember from concerts of yesteryear but with a perfectly refurbished floor – the best dancing floor in the parish – the gleam of the glorious windows, the new red velvet curtains and the memories.
Of course I have my own; from steering my sister down a catwalk when she could barely walk and I wasn’t too sure footed, to learning about the orchestra sitting on that floor with hundreds of eager school kids, concerts, dances, school formals, and in recent times to be back there with my own grandkids for a Play School performance. I remember Winifred Atwell and her marvelous honky tonk piano, Jack Davy and the recording of his radio show when I wished and hoped I’d be the little girl to have a pretty dress made during the show by the clever lady on the Singer sewing machine. And of course it has been central to so much of my family’s five generations of Canberra life.
I searched the book for familiar faces and found many. I was assured at this launch celebration by Dawn Waterhouse (nee Calthorpe) a Canberra treasure who with Beryl Quartel (nee Yeend) was at the opening in 1928, my Aunty Pat is there in one picture. My grandfather too more than likely somewhere in the magnificent photo of the Canberra Horticultural Society’s Autumn flower show that was for us all a must see over the decades. His glads were magnificent, his chrysanths quite special and the ribbons and awards are part of my Albert Hall treasure trove.
It has been a place for our city to have so many significant occasions and run-of the mill ones too and this wonderful book is a story to take you back to the beginnings and forward to a continuing future with all the stories Lenore Coltheart fitted so perfectly together as we knew she would.