This 1930 photograph is impressed on its mount ‘C Howard and Son, 81 High Street, Andover’, although by then the business was being run by Charles Howard’s daughter Edith. An ink inscription reads ‘Hello Andover, Aug 1930’ which dates it to shortly before Edith moved across the street to No 74 High Street, where the photography business remained for over 50 years, first under Edith Howard, but later under the stewardship of Ralph Page.

‘Hello Andover’ was the name of the principal variety show of Carnival Week, which was held in the former New Theatre in West Street, re-named the Rex Cinema in 1940. In the 1920s and ‘30s, the carnival was a huge money-raising event, instituted to help finance the Andover War Memorial Hospital, which depended on local donations.

It is easy to forget that prior to 1948 and the creation of a national health service, many hospitals were community-built and community-run. The hospital itself was built through local efforts and it took many years’ hard slog from the moment when it was first resolved to build it as a First World War memorial, and its official opening in 1926. The Andover Carnival was started in 1924, primarily to raise funds, and because all the proceeds went towards a local enterprise, essential for the well-being of the town and district, many volunteered to give their time, effort, talent and skills to further the cause.

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The Hello Andover revue of 1930 was not just one performance on the Saturday night following the carnival but a succession of performances all week. It was billed as twice nightly, at 6.20 and 8.40, with just one house on Wednesday at 8.40 pm, taking place in the last week of August. Tickets were available at A D Robbins of Handel House, the music shop behind the Guildhall. One of the principal performers and organisers of the event was one Maud Clark who worked at Handel House and, as Maud Sainsbury, was to become mayor of the town in 1952 and 1953. In the photograph, she can be seen standing, third from the left.

The musical director of that year was George Clark, who was also much involved with musical Andover. He was a regular accompanist to the silent films at the New Theatre, as well as playing violin at many of the events held in the town that required a musical group. Later of course, as many will remember, he ran, with his wife Beryl, the second-hand book shop at 101 High Street from the 1950s until the mid-1970s. When it was eventually cleared out, rooms full of books that had been locked up for years yielded many treasures, to the delight of eager buyers. George can also be seen here, standing tenth from left with a ‘dickie-bow’.

The children were always well to the fore in these annual shows, and in 1930 they performed four variety turns, supplemented by Albert Marchi, a speciality dancer who had been brought in. There were also gymnastic displays to punctuate the programme, performed by Mr St Gerinler and Mr Don Fay.

Stacey Newman was responsible for the comedy routines and he had brought together a troupe to perform a sketch that took place in the bargain basement of a provincial store. The chorus was Happy Days, which was performed at the beginning and end of every show. The dressing of the chorus was undertaken by a Miss Thorne of London Street and the stage settings were by Mr Paisley, ‘late of the Coliseum, London’. Nancy Newman choreographed the dancing.

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The main organiser was Alfred J Course, who was a tailor at 13 Bridge Street during this period. He probably acted as Master of Ceremonies and in all likelihood, is the man at the centre of the photograph. Among the group also should be 14-year-old Hubert Dawkes who acted as pianist for the first time and who was to go on to do great things nationally in the future – he may be the one who has just ducked his head behind the shortest of the four men in white shirts.

All in all, the Hello Andover revue was a great success in 1930, as it had been in other years, and Mr Course, in a letter to the Advertiser, thanked everyone who attended ‘despite the abnormal heat’ but pointed out that the receipts would have been much greater if the other evening carnival events had been ‘organised differently’. Perhaps so, but if the revue took place twice every evening, a clash in events was inevitable.

Some of the participants in these Hello Andover revues of the 1920s and early 1930s went on to form a concert party of their own over the next few years: Maud Clarke, Bob Bell, Hubert Dawkes and John Howard, who all performed at the 1930 show, were to become members of the Andoptomists that superseded Hello Andover. They were joined by others and certainly by 1934 it was the Andoptomists’ concert party that performed at the New Theatre, during Carnival Week - though the frequency of performance was reduced to just once nightly at 8.15 -  and continued to do so until 1939. A week after the carnival of that year, the Second World War broke out and carnivals then ceased until 1946.