After three years of planning and a couple of postponements due to COVID, the original production of My Hall finally went ahead in March – and what a production it was! Involving dozens of current students, Old Boys and staff, it was an epic homage to Hale’s Memorial Hall and the many memories and traditions it holds.
This interactive and multimedia experience recalled the history of Hale School’s most famous landmark, from the seeds of an idea in 1946 to its planning and construction through the 1950s and 1960s, to the many and varied events held there over the ensuing years.
The Hall was always intended as a tribute for Old Boys who had lost their lives at war and the design reflected this. Designed by emerging architect and Old Haleian Tony Brand, the look initially divided the community for its avant-garde use of off-form concrete, but many naysayers were silenced when the building took out the prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects medal in 1962.
My Hall Director, Julia Jarel said the Hall had since become so much more than a building over the last 60 years. For many Old Boys, it was one of the few if only remaining original buildings on the Wembley Downs campus that had remained unchanged and true to their memories.
“The Old Boys of Hale School funded, designed and built Memorial Hall to provide a place where the whole school community could come together – it was their gift to the future boys of Hale School. The Hall’s meaning, therefore, can be found in the palimpsest of memory that has been laid down within its walls. On any given day, if you sit quietly in the Hall and listen, you can almost hear the murmured prayers, whispers and footsteps of the thousands of boys who have gathered in the building, day after day, through weeks and years.”
Ms Jarel started researching and writing the script for My Hall three years ago but was thwarted in her attempts to present it to an audience last year due to COVID restrictions. With its staging finally able to proceed this year, a new generation of Haleians has been introduced to the history and significance of this concrete monolith.
My Hall was held over two nights and involved a cast of 15 Old Boys (ranging in age from 18 to 85), 13 current Hale boys, eight female members of Redfoot Youth Theatre, and 11 staff, plus dozens more behind the scenes. It really was a labour of love!
Ms Jarel felt it was important to document the history of Memorial Hall given plans for its redevelopment. Concept plans are being developed that involve a sympathetic rear extension to enhance capacity, while maintaining the façade, look and feel of this important historic building.