Our conversation club, Hidden Gems, have just been discussing Gwladys Stanley (with a w), who moved into Hednesford at the age of 2 in 1898.
Gwladys married, but was beckoned by the bright lights of the theatrical world. Starting her career by entertaining soldiers at the WWI camps on Cannock Chase she auditioned in 1919 and successfully gained a place with the Premier Pierrots, who were the resident attraction of the Central Pier, Blackpool.
She was very quickly scouted by her later-to-be husband Francis Laidler, owner of the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford. She became best known for playing the principal boy in Panto. Laidler proposed to Gwladys and the two were married. She earned an MBE in 1946 for her work with Bombshells concert party during WWII. When Francis died in 1955 Gwladys became the most powerful woman in provincial British theatre. Laidler’s last Alhambra panto was Red Riding Hood, which opened on December 27, 1954. A few days later, on January 6, 1955, the visionary impresario died, just one day before his 88th birthday. In showbiz tradition his widow, Gwladys Stanley Laidler, announced that the show must go on.The show did go on – and continues to do so. Not bad for our Hednesford lass!
Here’s our members of Hidden Gems today, enjoying remembering Gwladys. Hidden Gems meet at the Museum on the 4th Friday of the month – everyone welcome!