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Members of The Hilltones variety group remember fifty years of entertaining in Havering

PUBLISHED: 17:30 19 January 2018

Joy Blackmur reflecting on her years spent performing with The Hilltones

Joy Blackmur reflecting on her years spent performing with The Hilltones

Archant

A musical variety group that spent more than 50 years performing in hospitals and care homes, still meets up to reminisce about the days of musical festivities and fundraising.

The Hilltones were a variety group based in Harold Hill, and were founded by Joan and Reg Howard in 1966.

Joan came from an entertainment background, as her father, Lauri Howard was a music hall and variety artist, nicknamed “Mad Horse” for his tap dancing skills.

Joan was known for her husky blues singing voice, Reg for being a funny man.

Joy Blackmur, 80, from Heaton Avenue, joined the Hilltones in 1971. Once a month, five of the remaining members meet for a coffee to remember the great times they had entertaining.

She told the Recorder: “It was wonderful, we had such fun all through the years. We’ve got some great memories.”

Over the years, The Hilltones performed hundreds of shows at countless venues, raising thousands of pounds for various charities.

A highlight over the years was when members put on four sell-out performances at the Queen’s Theatre in aid of Saint Francis Hospice, from 1992 to 1997.

Jacquie Wright, 63, who now lives in Perth, Australia, joined The Hilltones in 1975 as a dancer.

She said: “We used to rehearse near Hilldene shops in Harold Hill and then in a church near Harold Wood Hospital. Joy, Joan and Peter Brown were the main vocalists and the rest of us would provide the backing vocals.

“We performed comedy sketches, scenes from the war and from musicals like Oliver! We were all very committed and took it very seriously, but we still always had time for a 
laugh.

“Even into their 80s, Joan and Reg were still spearheading the shows, frequently being older than the members of their appreciative audiences.

“Sadly, eventually time and illness caught up with them.”

In 2007, Reg died of motor neurone disease, and Joan died from cancer the following year.

Joy continued to keep the group going until their final farewell show in November, 2016 at Catherines Lodge, Southend on Sea.

“We were like a family, a real mixed bag of people,” Jacquie added.

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