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Coventry Arts Umbrella Club – An Overview

Coventry Arts Umbrella Club – 1st base Little Park Street 1955

Welcome to the Coventry Arts Umbrella Club archive site, as part of the Hobo (Coventry Music and Arts Magazine) Coventry Music site, documenting the Coventry Music Scene. Coventry is noted for it’s contribution to popular music via Two Tone, Pete Waterman, The Sorrows, Frank Ifield, Vince Hill, King, The Primitives, Indian Summer, Dando Shaft and more.

These musicians didn’t develop in a vacuum and the were many more who didn’t make it. Neither was the Coventry Scene just about music. Literature, art and politics feature in it it as well.

The Coventry Music archive blogs described and linked here.

Coventry Bands 1960’s to Now (on Google sites) Which is a comprehensive A to Z of Coventry Bands and Artists from the 60’s to present.

Hobo Coventry Music Archives ( The main blog) 
Hobo magazine archives, Coventry music features, other alternative Coventry mags and much more. (In development). Although this is a main part of the Hobo blogs, it’s one that still requires a lot more input. Slowly getting it all put on!

Coventry Arts Umbrella Club  

That’s this blog!!

Coventry Music Articles by Pete Clemons Houses Peter Clemon’s Coventry music articles for the Coventry Telegraph and for Hobo. Articles on Coventry bands, venues, gigs and much more.

This blog charts history of the Coventry folk scene and has pdf copies of Pete Willow’s Folks Magazine from c 1978.

Coventry Discos, DJ’s, Venues, Recording studios, Music Shops, Music Agencies in the 70’s
As it says on the tin, articles on the other aspects of the Coventry music scene, including Silk Disco, Sunshine  Music agency, Q Artistes, Pete Chambers and his initiatives and much more.

Lanchester Arts Festival and Gigs in the 1970’s 
Now Coventry University. Do you remember all those bands and artists who played the Lanch. This site tracks a lot of them with YouTube footage and more.

IT (International Times) had a section of Arts labs and Centres and in 1969, the Umbrella Club got a mention –

Umbrella’ Coventry’s Literary Magazine  1959

Coventry Arts Umbrella (or the Umbrella Club) as we all knew it, played an important role in that development, so much so it deserves it’s own focus – this blog.

Opened in Little Park Street, Coventry in 1955 with the official launch being by some of the Goons (who were performing at Coventry Belgrade Theatre). The Umbrella had associations with Philip Larkin, Two Tone and also housed Coventry’s first folk club.

More of The Umbrella’s seminal role in the Coventry music and arts scene will be revealed in these pages. 

Note also, that although the Umbrella is not the force it once was in 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, the club has survived in some form and small group of early members still meet at the private houses of members and they recently published a pamphlet of poetry, (Visit their site Here http://www.umbrellaclub.org.uk/index.php )

Umbrella’, the clubs respected literary journal from 1959 – 61 gets a mention in Philip Larkin’s biography (albeit a footnote). The journal might be ‘obscure’ as it says in the Larkin bio, but we bring it back to life on this blog with two pdf versions and Larkin’s essay on his poem about Coventry – Not the Place’s Fault.

Special mention must be made of Terry Watson, an English teacher at King Henry V111 school, poet, editor of Umbrella magazine and whose unstinting dedication to the Umbrella ensured it’s continuation through the decades.

The Umbrella’s story begins in 1955 with the opening of the premises in Little Park Street (next post), through the publication of Umbrella Literary magazine, through the move to premises at Queen Victoria road in 1961 – hosting Coventry’s first folk club, through to the hippy era with the Transcendental Cauldron – a Underground arts fest in 1969 (which was my first experience of the Umbrella) through their expulsion from Queen Victoria Road owing to a redevelopment programme and a new base in the Charterhouse. (Umbrella was on the corner where the white dot is – now British Chamber of Commerce.)

ABOUT UMBRELLA CLUB – Umbrella information sheets from the early 1970’s on a pdf file here

Photos and Memories
The material on this site is from my own archives, collected when I was a member and running the Live Music nights etc. If anyone has any photos of the Umbrella they are willing to share with us – either at Little Park Street (from inside) or from Queen Victoria Road (inside or out) or any documents that would be of interest – please let us know at hobozine@googlemail.com
Also share your share your memories with us in the comments.

Coventry History Centre 
For research – you can find further and more extensive material in Coventry Archives, Herbert Museum  including copies of Umbrella Magazine, Programmes, press cuttings and features and more.

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Birth of the Umbrella Club – Opened by the Goons

The Original Coventry Arts Umbrella Club base in Little Park Street 1950’s

Coventry Arts Umbrella Club played an important role in Coventry’s music history, for bands, folk, literature and more. Larkin wrote for Umbrella magazine and two Two Tone members played in early bands there.

Coventry Arts Umbrella Club opened in Little Park Street, Coventry  (seen in the photo) in 1955, with the official opening being conducted by The Goons. It was financed by West Midlands Arts. After its demolition in 1960, it re-opened in new premises at 18, Queen Victoria Rd  – and again that premises was condemned and demolished at the end of 1972 and the Umbrella eventually (in 1974), moved to the Charterhouse on London Rd. It’s hey days were the 50’s / 60’s and early 70’s but a small group of poets are still keep something modest going.

The Umbrella Club was founded in 1955 largely on the initiative of members of the City Architect’s Department in association with members of the Midland Theatre Company, the forerunner of the Belgrade Theatre. The Club opened on 10 Oct 1955 at 97 Little Park Street with the purpose of encouraging the enjoyment of the arts by providing facilities for members to take part in a wide range of activities and to sponsor and promote artistic and related events of various kinds. When 97 Little Park Street was demolished in 1961, it moved to 18 Queen Victoria Road and membership grew, reaching over 400 by 1964. The Club operated at Queen Victoria Road until these premises were also demolished in the early 1970s. For a time activities continued in The Charterhouse but the lack of suitable premises led to declining membership.”

According to architect and early member Bill Berrett ” The real movers were Terry Watson, Neil Stair (an English teacher who did the White Devil by Webster) Geoffrey Saunders (I can’t recall what his work was, but he made a great contribution to the early building decor), Rex Chell and Stanley Sellers, Architects from the City Department. All these did most of the work and negotiation.”

Birth of the Umbrella Club

The Coventry Arts Umbrella (known to its members as The Umbrella Club or The Brolly) opened October 10th 1955 at 97, Little Park Street (as seen in the picture above). This I think was in front of what became the Education Offices after the redevelopment of Little Park Street.

It was initiated largely by the Coventry City Architects department and members of the Midland Theatre Company.
The Aims of the Umbrella were to –
To provide a congenial meeting place for those interested in artistic and cultural activities and in pursuance of this it promotes lectures, discussions, exhibitions, recitals and similar. The name ‘Umbrella’ is intended to suggest the wide range of activities covered by the club

An Umbrella Club Membership Card

Outline of the functions and Structure of Coventry Arts Umbrella Ltd.
The Association is established to promote, maintain, improve and advance education and assist in the promotion, maintenance, improvement therein. Shall be of charitable nature and in particular, so far as such objectives may be charitable, to raise the artistic taste of Coventry and to promote, encourage and increase the appreciation and understanding of the arts generally and Dramatic Art, Musical Art, Literary Arts and Visual Arts in particular.”

The Umbrella Club, although already open, was officially opened by The Goons – Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers. Coventry photographer, Richard Sadler explains in The Journal of London Independant – Winter 2002/3, (pdf file with more photos) why, in those formal times, the Umbrella club chose the Goons to not only to open the club in 1955 but join in their party later on c 1959

The occasion (of the photos) was the the first time our heroes appeared on stage (Coventry Hippodrome I think)  to delight us with their wit and wisdom. It was a flop of course, though not for us, due in the main to having a public who

enjoyed them, till then, only through the radio. The theatre too was controlled at that time, not only by the management, but by the Lord Chamberlain. All theatre performances had to be approved by him and any deviation from the script, at each performance, had to be recorded and forwarded to his office. The anarchic wit and humour of our heroes, to whom the art of the ad lib was essential was fundamental, suffered from this bureaucratic machinery; they had in truth been sent to Coventry.”

Sadler goes on to explain –
“We at the Umbrella would have none of that, they would come to our party and celebrate that which we would create together with them, a

future of peace, prosperity and fun…they put up an umbrella, embraced the girls and assumed a pose that would remind us of their personalities, wit and wisdom, that changed, though no one realised it at the time, English humour forever.

An article appears on the Goons in one of the editions of Umbrella.

Bill Berrett offered – “A small anecdote about the opening by the Goons. It was a very informal and crowded do. The Goons mixed in with everybody and had a great time. That is until a young woman asked for an autograph and the Goons swiftly departed! (they did take away ‘Spon’ from Coventry as in ” I been Sponned’!)”

The Advisory Committee in the early days consisted of The Right Rev – the Lord Bishop of Coventry. Alderman Mrs Pearl Hyde. Mr A.G. Ling FRIBA Coventry City Architect. Lord Leigh. Sir Stanley Harley (Coventry Gauge and Tool Ltd. Mr P.S. Randell (Courtalds)

The club initially had 200 members comprising of students, secretaries, engineers, technologists, Clerks, nurses, Civil Servants, architects, journalists, artists, shop assistants, housewives.

97, Little Park St. Comprised a Lounge (used for lectures and recitals) A Foyer – Exhibition room, music room, cloak room, office and kitchen. The building was demolished to allow for redevelopment.

The first Chair of the Umbrella was Anthony John – later of the BBC – later Dr A H Marshall and Terry Watson was Vice Chair at this stage later to be Chair.

Reply to Criticism
“We can offer a reply to the criticism which tends to be levelled at an expanding industrial town like Coventry – that it’s heartless and that there is nothing to do and that it is a ‘Cultural desert’ . Our reply, based on observation and the deep satisfaction which many intelligent young people have found in using the club and how newcomers to Coventry have said how they have not felt at home in the city until they began to use Umbrella club.”

On 3rd April 1961 the Coventry Arts Umbrella received a Compulsory Purchase Order with notice to quit their premises at 97, Little Park St. by the 30th June 1961 after 5 years of residence at that address. The Umbrella claimed, in response, that  the Umbrella had established a “unique position as a cultural and social centre, especially for young people who are over youth club age and for whom we provide a service of a kind not to be found elsewhere in the city. It’s cultural magazine is subscribed to by the Library of Congress USA and New York Public Library etc.

The Umbrella was rehoused at 18, Queen Victoria Rd. until once again in 1972 they had to move after a 10 year residency this time.

In terms of programme the Umbrella while at Little Park St. organised a series of Cultural Weeks each year as follows –
American Week – 1957
Russian Week   – 1958
Norwegian Week -1959

In May 1958 they hosted a production of Webster’s White Devil in St. Mary’s Hall.

Some of the distinguished speakers included –
EM Forster, Sir Stuart Wilson, Prof. Marvin Felheim, Prof. Nevil Coghill, Aaron Copland, Richard Arnell, Brian Priestman, Sir Eugene Goossens.

The Umbrella magazine is covered in another post on here with some new additions.

The early programme on the move to Queen Victoria Rd. included (up to 1968) Jazz, music , Bridge, art and design and Drama. jazz was particularly strong at the umbrella.

And, from the Umbrella Website http://www.umbrellaclub.org.uk/index.php
A potted history of the club –
” History of the Club
The seeds of the Umbrella Club were sown when a group of people enthusiastic about the arts were meeting socially in the Geisha Cafe in Hertford Street, Coventry.

Geisha Café Right opposite Greens Chemist
Hertford street

The Club opened on 10 October 1955 at 97, Little Park Street, with the purpose of encouraging the enjoyment of the arts by providing facilities for members to take part in a wide range of activities and to sponsor and promote artistic and related events of various kinds.
The official opening took place on 2nd November 1955 and was attended by none other than The Goons, Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan.

The club had a sub-committee for each section of the arts and these ran a full programme of events. Notable speakers included Kenneth Tynan, Maurice Edelman, Graham Whettam.

The Club also published a series of magazines, featuring new writing from new and established writers, eg. E. M. Forster, Susan Hill, Philip Larkin. A particularly memorable event was a production of ‘The White Devil’ in St. Mary’s Hall, in the late 50s.

In 1961, Little Park Street was redeveloped and the Club obtained a three story house in Queen Victoria Road. Here the Club went from strength to strength. An outbuilding was converted and extended into a theatre/ cinema and the programme included Jazz on a Summer’s Day, The Cranes are Flying, The Seventh Seal. The film group experimented with film making and we have a video copy of Under the Umbrella, a film about the club’s activities made in 1965 as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations .

Some events were open to the public, including films, plays,, art exhibitions.

In 1970, the area was due for redevelopment and compulsory purchase left the Club with insufficient resources for premises. Until 1974, members met at The Charterhouse, a historic building on the London Road which had been left to the city for public use. Meetings were held once a week with the film group sometimes meeting separately on an additional night. Unfortunately it proved difficult to maintain the Club under these conditions and though the club was never closed down, activity became minimal.

In the 1990s, there was a reunion and relaunch at the Koko building in Spon End. After an initial busy programme, activities were toned down to the present level. Times have changed and people have many more opportunities and demands on their time than was the case in the 50s and 60s, however there is still a desire for people interested in the arts to meet together in order to participate in and discuss the various media.”

Recent Comment

This received from  Jean Jennings (neé Gough) April 13, 2013 at 7:13 AM
If anyone can confirm (or otherwise) Jean’s memory of the Umbrella being open before 1955 – please get in touch hobozine@googlemail.com

“Thank you for bringing back some wonderful memories of the Umbrella Club. I was a very keen member in the 50’s, assisting Terry Watson with the secretarial jobs and publicity. I remember him bringing to the club the first electric typewriter – a scary monster. He was truly an inspired person and brought such enthusiasm to the club.
One problem that I have is with the given date of the inception of the club. I distinctly remember going there in 1953 – and it had been active a while before then. Can anybody confirm this?”

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Jim Runnalls Remembers the early days of the Coventry Umbrella Club.

 I got a very interesting email from Jim Runnalls, a former pupil of Bablake School and
Aeronautical Engineer and one of the founding members of the Coventry Arts Umbrella Club. Jim has been mentioned on this site before in relation to the article on Matlock. This is Jim in his own words – and hopefully he will tell us some more – which i will add to this page.

My name is Jim Runnalls and I was a very junior teen age ‘founder’ member. I’m now 83! I recall that the Umbrella had been going for some time before the Goons visit. I do remember Harry Secombe’s brief speech when he declared the Umbrella Club ‘Open and long may it rain!!!!.”

The UMBRELLA could truly be described as a centre of culture in what was a more or less WWII bombed site. Little Park Street was a tiny jewel of medieval Coventry which Hitler failed to completely flatten. It housed a few lawyers and the registry office where I was married and one or two solicitors offices going towards the cathedral. Opposite the club and to the south was a wasteland which became a fairground once or twice a year. On the north side of the club were the remains of a magnificent three story house with internal staircases and balconies which I and a few others pleaded with the Council to restore. Like the Umbrella they poured concrete on it all. The south side of the club housed an medieval courtyard with small dwellings one of which was the home to a very disabled young man who was wheelchair bound speech impaired youth and who played a small xylophone using a clay pipe gripped between his teeth. The entrance to this courtyard housed a fabulous little medieval pub. With The Registry Office opposite it was an almost complete community. Wasn’t it ironic that the clubs creative core were employed in the City’s architects office where they created the awful precinct of concrete devoid of people which destroyed my already battered City?

I was ORIGINALLY adopted by Geoffrey Saunders and Stanley Sellars who PROVED able to generated cultural instincts in an aeronautical engineer. We holidayed in St. Ives together and I met Barbara Hepworth etc.

Rex Chell (Architect) was another notable. We were controlled by an (to an 18y.o.) aged couple. The gentleman who’s name escapes me who controlled most of our more crazy ideas and his more sedate wife.

John & Jean Astle ran the music room which I built with my Bablake music master!!!!

Donald List was I think the musician you were searching for.

When they built a new Central Police Station nearby. We were frequently ‘raided’ but soon they left their helmets near the front door and joined in the fun! The Lady Mayoress, Pearl Hyde quite often would arrive at the club in her official car, in all of her regalia and come to drink coffee and talk to the youngsters who were shaping her city.

I worked closely with Terry Watson on the Umbrella Magazine and am guilty of designing one of its most awful cover pages.

I have to say that those days were extremely beneficial to me and I hope that The UMBRELLA still enthuses the youth of my City.

James Runnalls – Freeman of Coventry.

Jim Runnalls Aeronuatical Engineer & Bablake School July 22, 2021 at 11:20 AM

I’m writing to you as a founder member of The UMBRELLA. I’d left Bablake School at sixteen in 1954 to commence an aeronautical engineering apprenticeship with Armstrong Whitworth. The Corporation bus from Cheylesmore where I lived passed the front door of no. 97 and its magnetism was irresistible.

I became a founder member and was responsible for much of the interior decoration before that visit by the GOONS when The DEDICATION by I think was Harry Secombe who declared I hereby name the club THE UMBRELLA long may it rain. which it was at the time! the Coventry Registry Office was opposite. My wife and I were married there and celebrated in the club afterwards. Geoffrey Saunders and Stanly Sellars were witnesses I think. My Bablake School music master (name escapes me) and I built the Hi-Fi system upstairs. i was instrumental in the Umbrella Magazine and much else before marriage and children intervened. The Umbrella gave me a wonderful early upbringing and has had a profound influence on my life. There were so many guiding lights and never was anything untoward. The Umbrella gave my a start in life which was irreplaceable. I cannot describe the awful impact of its eventual destruction supervised by Arthur Ling.(City Architect)

The Umbrella at Little Park Street in mid to late 50’s.

Umbrella magazine – Jim Runnalls was involved with the production.

Little Park Street after the Blitz

Citizens Advice was in the same building at one stage. The Lady Mayoress visiting.

The Goons opening (officially) the Umbrella Club 1955

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The Umbrella Club – a 10 year celebration January 1966

The Umbrella Club – a 10 year celebration January 1966

by Pete Clemons

This is a great find by Pete Clemons – taken from an article in The Coventry Standard

January 1966. It’s a good sketch of the Umbrella in those days when the Umbrella pioneered an early folk club in the city leading a brilliant folk scene in the 60’s. Music was dominated by Classical recitals and Jazz and poetry was always big.

In October 1969, when I first went the Coventry arts Umbrella club, Jo Petter, the Drama organiser, created a game changing mini festival for the Umbrella called the Transcendental Cauldron, a three day all night festival that emulated the kind of events happening at places like Drury Lane Arts Lab where Bowie started out. It was my introduction to the Coventry music scene but had alternative films, art exhibitions etc. The programme can be seen in the flyer posted here and included last fair deal, Asgard and Dando Shaft.

It was followed a month later by the Music Marathon and after which Al Docker and I put on regular Friday band nights for a year and half featuring the cream of local or regional bands. There was a shift away from jazz at this stage but this article is a good representation of the Umbrella in 1966 and shows it be a place where people could get involved and organise their own events, as both I and Al Docker did in 1970 / 72.

The next stage of the Umbrella had Neol Davies, Kevin Harrison, Indian Summer, Asgard playing there.

The Umbrella Club – a 10 year celebration January 1966 

Where in Coventry could a theatre, coffee bar, exhibition room, studio, photographic dark room and music room all be found under one roof – or rather, under one umbrella?. The answer is, at the Umbrella club, Coventry’s Art Centre located in a small terraced house in Queen Victoria Road.

Behind its modest exterior something lies that lovers of the arts find valuable. They discover companionship and enjoyment in appreciating with others the many cultural topics which the club embraces. Some have already discovered their worth, while others renew it.

Here is a unique club. It is a meeting place where all classes and all races can enjoy one another’s company and share common leisure interests.

It has been said by the ill informed that it is a club of misfits. These surely are to be found in all walks of society but no more so at the Umbrella Club.

A member will say that it is up to the individual to cultivate friendships and to show enthusiasm for a form of art that he would like to appreciate – whether it is classical music, jazz, art, drama or any other.

It was ten years ago last month that Harry Secombe unfurled a large black umbrella and proclaimed ‘The Umbrella, long may it reign’ at the clubs official opening.

In a small Victorian house in Little Park Street the club steadily grew and began to make an impact in the city. The turning point came in 1961, only six years after its formation, when the headquarters became due for demolition.

After much fruitless searching, a terraced house at Queen Victoria Road was made available by the council. But it was in a shocking condition. Members worked day and night to prepare it for the opening.

Since that day, the Umbrella Club has flourished and despite many financial set backs has achieved, and is still achieving, it aims…….

(a) To provide a friendly meeting place for those people interested in the arts

(b) To arrange exhibitions, recitals and general discussions

And most important of all, for the club to be a source of encouragement and enjoyment of the arts.

All this has come to fruition within a span of ten years but only due to endless hard work and enthusiasm of its members. Without enthusiasm this club could, like an umbrella, have folded. But it kept going without financial support, apart from a small grant from the arts council.

The club is unlike any other in Coventry. It is neither a youth club nor a community centre. It is also not a club devoted to professional people. It is an arts centre for everyone, irrespective of their profession, their colour or their creed.

There are no restrictions, but instead, complete freedom of choice for each member to choose how his time will be spent there. The beauty of such freedom is the ability one gains to ‘discover’ oneself.

Talents, hitherto hidden deep, will rise to the surface as shyness or nervousness disappear in friendly conversation or over a game of bridge. You may find that you cup of tea is in the drama line, perhaps acting, or even helping to produce. On the other hand, there is a film group, which not only shows films regularly but has begun to make them.

Debates and discussions take place on a variety of topics including religion, politics, poetry, theatre, television, travel. The range is almost limitless.

Exhibitions are an accepted part of club life. Many members are keen artists who submit pictures for local exhibitions (the last one was a members display at the Herbert Art Gallery). Nancy Upshall and John Budgett, to name but two, are well known Coventry artists who have exhibited at the club.

And what of music? The works of the great composers are regularly played and discussed. Operas, Continental, Flamenco, or music from far away lands is enjoyed and appreciated by many.

If you are a jazz enthusiast there is plenty of enjoyment for you. On Wednesday’s this circle gather round to listen to records. Occasionally the Umbrella Club Jazz Band gives a performance.

The visual arts group provides members with some very interesting subjects for discussion. Recently an exhibition boards was given. The cosy music room often holds the motoring enthusiasts or those who want to play their favourite recordings.

As leader of the club, Terry Watson, who is a teacher at King Henry VIII School, said ‘Those who come here seem to ‘find’ themselves and something for which they were perhaps looking’.

He went on ‘This club is for everyone who would like to enjoy the arts. We are all amateurs and believe that what would kill it most of all would be the existence of professionalism. We want to keep the atmosphere the way it is even if we one day have another and better building. The building is not really the important thing, it is the people who matter’

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Richard Sadler: Coventry post-war photographer

Richard Sadler – Coventry Post-War Photographer.

Richard Sadler has passed away at 90. Richard documented the opening of the Coventry Arts Umbrella club with the Goons, in the Umbrella’s original premises in Little Park Street, Coventry, in 1955. (Photos of the Umbrella Below)

His photos were published in The Journal of London Independent Photography. http://www.londonphotography.org.uk/magazine/pdf/LIPJWinter02.pdf
The Goons in Coventry 1955 with Umbrellas!! Photo Richard Sadler.
Richard Sadler – Nicola Young Photography

BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Article


“Richard Sadler lived through the German bombing of the city and documented the rebuilding of the cathedral.

Dr Ben Kyneswood, of Coventry University, said he was “probably Coventry’s pre-eminent post-war photographer”.

Sadler captured ordinary life around the city and the poverty that remained, despite Coventry’s post-war boom.

Jason Scott Tilley from Coventry’s Photo Archive Miners group, described him as “theatrical” an “extrovert” and “one of these characters who came out of that booming city after the war and made a name for himself”.

He said Sadler was special because he was a perfectionist. Dr Kyneswood added that because he was a fine art photographer by trade, he was taught to take one photograph at a time and spent a lot of time framing his photos before he took them.

Michael Pritchard from the British Photographic History website said Sadler was “one of British photography’s important post-war figures”.

In his 60-year career, he worked for many of the big local companies, including Jaguar, Wimpey, the University of Derby, Courtaulds, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Belgrade Theatre.

He also worked with playwright John Wiles on ‘Never Had it So Good’, a social documentary about the city, performed at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre.

A body of Sadler’s work has been digitized by Dr Kyneswood and colleagues as part of the Photo Miners project.

He died at his home in Monmouthshire after a short illness.

A Richard Sadler Photograph –  This man was photographed at the Coventry research centre of fabric-makers Courtaulds.

A Richard Sadler Photograph – Copies of Weegee the Famous are held by the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum among others.

Sadler’s photos combined the modern city and everyday life.

New York City is full of bustle and business, and Richard Sandler has been capturing it perfectly since the 80s. In his ongoing series, he captures a slew of New Yorkers commuting to work everyday via taxi, bus or subway or by foot. https://www.trendhunter.com/trends/richard-sadler


Two Tone Photographer John Coles has said that Richard Sadler developed some of his early band photographs.

This is the article on the opening of the Umbrella Club by richard sadler from The London Independent Photographer 1955.

The photograph as an aide-mémoire Richard Sadler The shorter Oxford dictionary tells us that an “aide-mémoire” is a book or document serving as an aid to the memory; it goes on to say, in diplomats’ terms it is a memorandium. Should we read then, photograph, in addition to book? Of course, for from the Daguerreotype to the present day the photograph has fulfilled that function, though the image, like words can also be manipulated to suit romantic ideals, serve political propaganda or simply tell the truth of the moment, or an economical version of it. It is evidence, and by the very nature of its production a document of a real moment in time. In our quest for the art of the medium we forget the strength of the photograph in this its primary role, linked, as it is, to a time and reality seen through the impartial camera. So, what are the memories within these images of a party at the Umbrella Club for the Arts in Coventry in the 1950s? The image above reminds of parties enjoyed, friends, lost, forgotten, dead, rich or famous, and a personal past of, lost or gained hopes and aspirations. The Umbrella Club is a piece of history long overtaken by a City rebuilt and continually trying to keep up with the times. It is the image with two bespectacled gentlemen (they must be gentlemen look at their overcoats, it was still clothes rationing then) talking to another whose back only is visible. Then it all comes flooding back, it is Mr Harry Secombe and Mr Peter Sellars, and in that party crowd image the man in a “deerstalker” must be Mr Spike Milligan. In spite of the formality of the times for us they were the “Goons”. The occasion was the first time when our heroes, appeared on stage to delight us with their wit and wisdom. It was a flop of course, though not for us, due in the main to having a public that enjoyed them, till then, only via the radio The theatre too at that time was controlled, not on1y by the management, but the Lord Chamberlain. All theatre performances had to be approved by him and any deviations from the script, at each performance, recorded and forwarded to his office. The anarchic humour and wit of our heroes, to whom the art of the ad lib was fundamental, suffered from this bureaucratic machinery; they had in truth been “sent to Coventry’. We, the members of the Umbrella Club, would have none of that, they would come to our party to celebrate that which we would create together with them, a future of peace, prosperity and fun! The top image (p. 21) sums up that evening , as obligingly they put up an umbrella, embraced the girls and assumed a pose that would remind us of their personalities, wit and wisdom that changed , though no one realised it at the time, English humour for ever. Here’s to Sir Harry, and Peter, who died some years previously, and to Spike, who died this year.

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Dirty Stops Outs – Coventry in the 1970’s – Ruth Cherrington

A recently launched book titled ‘Dirty Stop Outs 1970’s Coventry’ is currently available from outlets like Coventry HMV shop, Waterstones and Amazon. And a really enjoyable read it is too.

The book, authored by Dr Ruth Cherrington features many of the pictures and information from these Hobo – Coventry Music Sites, including the Coventry Arts Umbrella Club along with memories from some of the people who were there and frequented the pubs, clubs, and music and dance venues in the city.

Available for Amazon UK HERE

Ruth Cherrington with the new book at Coventry Music Museum 2017.

Read a review of the book by Pete Clemons HERE

Dirty Stop Outs – Coventry Music and Entertainments in the 70’son display at Coventry HMV

John Bo Bargent (a co-founder of Hobo magazine) at the Waterstones book launch with both a copy of the new book and a copy of Hobo magazine from 1974.

A page in the book featuring Trev and Bo with their magazine Hobo.

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Sound bites from the Umbrella programmes 60’s and 70’s

These are just some random entries in various Umbrella programmes or news sheets joted down the other week while visiting Coventry History centre and looking their Umbrella archives.

Programme from 1950’s.

Jazz, music, bridge, art and craft, drama.

Programme 1966

Folksinging – A group of folksingers led by Barry Skinner performing in the club on Monday evenings from January to July 1966.

Programme 1967

Jazz bands.

January 1967 – Folk Tuesday 26th January 8.30.At last live folk music in the club. Now’s your chance to hear again those wonderful old songs you learnt on your Granny’s knee – Arranged by Roy Mitchell.

Programme 1968

June 18th 1967 – Folk. Roy Mitchell Group.

Martin Nobel Group – Jazz

Exhibitions,Social – party, films, lectures, poetry readings, Arts Council tour, One act play, recital – 

The Voice of Pop – Terry Watson – explores the links between classical and popular music.

Programme 1970

Cliff Cowling Friday night music nights (jazz mainly) taken over by Al Docker, assisted by Trev Teasdel on the door. Cliff Cowling said he could not organise the Friday night band sessions anymore.

Bands – White Heat, Joy Hyman, Modern Jazz Symbols, Whistler, Rod Felton, Cliff Cowling, Children, Crystal Ship, Mick Green Blues Band, Nack ed en, Cat’s Grave (Neol Davies band) and Mead – also Neol Davies band, Chris Jones Aggression.

April – Whistler – band practices.

May 1970 – Friday band night – Postcard.

June 1970 – Folk Club – Brian Rogers? and John Lave? Saturday nights. People from all over the Midlands come.

Friday July 1970 – Trad B Jefferson and April  and next session in July – Asgard played.

August 1970 – Steve Tayton and his Jazz quartet.

Fri August 14th Vic’s Heavy Rock Jam Session. Organised by Al Docker and led by Neol Davies (later of Selecter). With many local musicians associated with the Umbrella.

Friday August 21st – April (a Contemporary folk outfit led by Ron Lawrence) and Tea and Symphony (Birmingham progressive band).

Bands wishing to play at the Umbrella should contact Al Docker.

New members included Tes Walker, Mick Cuttifoot, Lance Goodey, Sally Birch,Jenny Bowden, Doug Deakin, Pete Webb, Malvin Preece, John Scott, Jim Porter.  (Some of these were in the Umbrella before this time.Either renewed membership or formally joined – some of course were new)

September 1970 – Friday 18th – band night Ghost – (A Birmingham band) and Asgard.
Contemporary style.

Programme 1971

Heron played 19th October. London based group.

New Members 1971 included – Janice Coombs, Janice Gage, Rosemary Jones, Charles Bullen, Andrew Court, Nick Day. (Some had been to the Umbrella before formally joining.)

Secretary of the Programme committee – Lindy Watson -members of the committee – Esther Breakwell, Jim Ashwell, Maggie Heath, John Pinder, Gaynor Penton. Terry Watson treasurer. Barry Bowerman excutive committee.

Live music May 1971 – Tsar – Al Docker’s band with Atom Disco – Al and Steve Varney. “A freaky night for anyone who wants to listen to some good sounds!

Poetry and Folk April 1971 – Toadstool – John Brown acoustic band.

Don’t Pick a Flower – John Leopold acoustic band. Poetry and folk, contemporary and own songs. May 1971.

18th May Roger Williamson – Poetry and Folk.

Programme 1972

Lanchester Polytech Arts Fest – Jan / Feb – Umbrella Poets 28th Jan / 4th Feb at the Colin Campbell

Liz Lovatt Poetry and Folk nights Sat 1st April 1972.

August / September 1973 – meeting at Tudor House. Hobo – Coventry Music and Arts Magazine co founded by Trev Teasdel and John Bo Bargent request use of the Umbrella’s duplicator to produce an issue of Hobo magazine. (Bottom of this sheet.)

June 1972 – top item below – Humpoesic Happening convened by Trev Teasdel, experimental folk and poetry session.

Umbrella Poets at the Lanchester Arts Festival – Colin Campbell 1972

August programme 1971 – Vic’s Heavy Rock Jam Session.
Programme sheet 1966

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Photos from the Umbrella Club Archives

Called into the History Centre in Coventry recently while down in Coventry and these photos are posted with kind permission of the History Centre. Mostly from the late 50’s or early 60’s. If anyone can throw any light on these early photos, please comment.

Ron Morris Pottery 1960

Have received an email from Megan Walden (Roberts) regarding the above photo and the one below – 
 “The lady in the red dress who was a friend of mine at the time. Name, Valerie Jones, art teacher, talented artist and fabric designer. Would love to know where she is these days. Loved my days doing all sorts on the committee.”

I think this is leading light Terry Watson – no idea who the lady is.

This is Jean Gough with Mr and Mrs Sutherland. It looks like Little Park street premises.

The Umbrella Club at Little Park Street 1950’s-
Enroute to the Police Station.

In the 60’s,the Umbrella apparently help Miss Umbrella heats – this is just one of the photos held in the Umbrella archives in the Coventry History Centre.

A young looking Terence Watson

In this photo – Geoffrey Sutherland,Arthur King, Norman Reader and poet John Hewitt.

Occasion of the Julian Orchestra at Little Park Street.

Harry Secombe at the opening of the Umbrella 1955
“Long Live the Umbrella”

A H Marshall – early President of the Umbrella 1957

Josie Heath – Club Member

Don Lindon – one of those instrumental in creating the Umbrella Club in 1955 and Chairman of Jazz.

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Coventry Film Production Unit 1960- Three Films.

On a recent visit back to Coventry I squeezed in a bit of time to visit the Coventry History centre with a view to look at their archives for the Coventry Arts Umbrella Club. Almost immediately I met Alan Von Wijgerden, a Coventry photographer and film maker.

Alan kindly referred me to three videos on his youtube. The films were made in 1960 by Coventry Film Production Unit which I understand were based at the Umbrella. If anyone can provide further information on these films or the production company, please get in contact or leave a comment.

The first film is called – A Visit to the Dentist

Alan says – ‘ A film made by Coventry Film Production Unit. black and white, circa 1960 and silent. The films were bought in Coventry Market as part of a box of old films. John Allibone seems to be one of the key players. If anyone has any information about him or the unit I’ll be very interested.’

All’s Fair in Love and War – 1960

Featuring – Zena Brandwick, Patricia Dalton, Peter Martin, with Eric Smith, June Sheffield, Martin Lovell. Photographed by John Archer Hall, assistant cameraman Martin Lovell, story and production Ken Pearson. Directed by John Allibone.

Alan says – “Another film from Coventry Film Production Unit. Circa 1960. Black and white and silent. If you have any info about the group I’d be very interested. It’s a little melodrama about being careless with your loved one, something of an object lesson.”

Symon Enry comments on the youtube page –
F.Y.I At around 7.25 you see the couple walking down Daventry Road away from the Parade and they have a snog on the corner of Carthusian Road. Just thought I’d mention that to nobody that will ever read this or care.

Fighting Fit

“A comedy from Coventry Film Production Unit circa 1960 and black and white silent. Seems to feature some footage of Highfield Rd on match day. If anyone knows anything about the group I would be interested to hear.”

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