Cosy Nook centre stage in book
A MUCH-anticipated book exploring the history of the Cosy Nook Theatre is soon to be released.
Written by NewquayVoice columnist Chris Blount, Theatre by the Sea will be officially launched on Friday, November 22, at the Blue Reef Aquarium at 10.30am by one of Newquay’s most popular exports, Phillip Schofield. A plaque will also be unveiled commemorating the Cosy Nook which was built at the site and opened there in 1929. It was demolished in April 1991.
From there, the group will head to The Bookshop on East Street where both Phillip and Chris will be signing copies of the book. Chris’s literary journey with the theatre began when he met Jeannie Walshe and Betty Peck from St Columb Minor WI on his BBC Radio Cornwall show. They were looking for people to come forward with more memories of the theatre.
Many years later, he thought back to the book and wondered about its progress. He discovered the two ladies found it to be a bigger job than expected, so Chris inherited their research. He said: “It was always something I wanted to do because I have always liked the Cosy Nook. It’s all things to all people and was the main theatre in Newquay. To visitors, it was the home of the professional summer show every year, and they were very good – my favourite was Gay Time which ran through the 1950s and it was packed out every night.”
The Cosy Nook boasted 388 seats in its heyday, with every seat taken for its evening performances. Onlookers would watch fascinated as six coaches eased their way down towards the promenade and squeezed into a parking space to deliver excited audiences.
Chris continued: “Many local people as children would go there and be part of the pantomime – pupils at Crantock Street School would be part of performances as well. After that, the Dramatic Society, Operatic Society and the Review Company all performed at the Cosy Nook, as well as folk concerts, talent shows and school speech days being held there.”
Gang shows such as Fun’s-a-poppin’ also featured at the theatre, created by resident John Trembath. It was said to be “very popular” during the 1970s. Chris said: “It was used by so many people in the town. It was much loved and I thought its life was a book crying out to be written.”
Over the years Chris had collected a number of Cosy Nook memories, but in a bid to complete his research, he met with more people to record their fond memories, as well as taking to the internet. He said: “I went online and had some very interesting emails back. One came from a woman called Helen Russell who spent some of her younger years in Newquay. She wrote a lovely piece about her feelings and how it was the springboard to her professional career.”
Helen, who is featured in Chris’s book, said: “I knew at the age of seven that being on that stage felt like the most comfortable place I could ever be. I felt protected by everything in the theatre, front and back, even the really dark corners where we used to dare each other to hide.”
Jam-packed with illustrations, photographs and anecdotes, Theatre by the Sea tells the entertaining stories of the many people who graced the stage. Some recall having to wait for a break in the waves to run to the theatre as the tide crashed up and over the prom, while others remember the moments that went wrong.
Chris said: “It’s been an exciting year since the Art8 Festival when an event was staged where people could come down to the Blue Reef and give me their memories of the theatre, and since then the process of putting it together. I have never done a book with so much in it before. This was a huge thing. It’s exciting now that it’s coming together and very soon people will be able to purchase it.
“It was an act of faith for Newquay Urban District Council to build the theatre. There was a cry from residents for many years that Newquay wanted more places of entertainment.”
Many actors who went on to hit the big time starred at the Cosy Nook – Clive Dunn, best known for his Dad’s Army character Lance-Corporal Jack Jones, appeared at the theatre in 1947, Benny Hill performed in 1949, Ray Alan in 1961/2 and later in the 1980s, followed by magician David Nixon and Terry O’Neil, as well as Paul Daniels and Phillip Schofield.
Chris continued: “The Cosy Nook was a stepping stone for people who went on to become very famous. When Clive Dunn was performing in 1947, the theatre had a very serious fire during the summer in its stage area. He went in to rescue his costumes and music, despite the fire. He came out with a blackened face, but he saved his things. That fire closed the show at the theatre and it was performed at St Michael’s Church Hall.”
With many more tales to tell, the book will be on sale for £12.99 at The Bookshop from November 22. The group shall be meeting at the store from around 11am.