Local Face: Peggy Batchelor

  |  Published: Oct 1st 2007

Peggy Batchelor has been involved with the Arts since her Essex childhood. She graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where she first met Dame Sybil Thorndike who invited her to join ENSA which took her around hospitals in the UK and then West Africa. She was on the first convoy through the Mediterranean which was torpedoed. Eventually she arrived in Cairo to open The English Season at the famous Opera House. Peggy then moved on to India. One adventure involved being mauled by a tiger: Noel Coward famously asked if it was "during the performance?" Peggy performed her Solo Act on special occasions such as when General Slim opened The Nip Inn in Calcutta specially built for the officers and all the ranks returning from Burma. She also acted for Jack Hawkins at the Garrison Theatre .

In peacetime Peggy became a member of The West of England Theatre Company sponsored by the Arts Council of Great Britain. The actors were chosen by their Patron, J B Priestley. She then appeared on early television as well as radio which included a regular Sunday evening Gilbert and Sullivan programme, Mrs Dale's Diary, Dick Barton, Children's Hour, also Summer Season and Cabaret with the young Benny Hill.

Peggy realised her potential as a teacher. She obtained a Teacher's Degree at the Guildhall and became a Speech and Drama advisor to Southend Education Committee. She devoted time to a group of young people in Ealing most of whom she launched on their careers including Trevor Ray ("Lock up your Daughters" and "Oliver") and Dusty Springfield. Now she felt equipped to open The Ridley Studios in Leigh-on-Sea, named after her Guildhall Professor, Frank Ridley. She was invited to be an examiner for Guildhall and Professor of Drama. This led to her appointment as International Chairman of the Society of Teachers of Speech and Drama which involved extensive overseas travel for adjudicating, examining, giving recitals and poetry readings and she is a founder member of National Drama. Peggy is Patron of LINK - an organisation which helps children and young adults who have learning difficulties.

Where is the connection with Wendover? It started on 1 September 1944 in Lahore, India, when she met a charming young RAF Squadron Leader after one of her performances. They met again many years later when Air Commodore Clegg was living in Wendover. They married on 1 September 1984. Peggy was invited to join the Drama Department of the Arts Educational School in Tring, specialising in voice. She helped to form "The Kings Head Players" at The Kings Head in Aylesbury which specialised in original productions of local events. Sadly, after ten wonderful years, Arthur died and Peggy returned to the theatre, TV, recitals and public speaking.

Over the years she has been made a Fellow of The Guildhall School of Music, The Victoria College of Music, The Society of Teachers of Speech and Drama. Peggy is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and was seen recently in a season of new Russian plays at the Royal Court Theatre, London.

On 6 October she appears in "Sybil" at Walnut Tree Barn,Drayton Beauchamp, a recital written by Dame Sybil Thorndike's grand-daughter, Diana Devlin.

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