Elizabeth Penney – Tribute

In Memory of

Elizabeth Penney

24 . 03 . 1903 – 02 . 02 . 1972

Wick News July 2000 carried this letter from Richard Porter

” In 1998 Wick celebrated 50 years with a magnificent party enjoyed by many past and present members. I am one of the past members whose association with the Company dates back to the late fifties, where as a child I first became besotted with the theatre.

I owe a great deal to the company and its founder, Elizabeth ‘Molly’ Penney.

I realise on reflection, that in the excitement of that celebration party and in the pleasure of the reunion of old friends, little mention was made of Molly and the enormous influence she had in establishing the company. New members and audiences alike will have no knowledge of her guiding contribution and as fresh talent emerges to take the company forward it is fitting to acknowledge its origins. I would like to make a couple of suggestions as to how to pay tribute to her.

Molly founded the company, under the name of ‘The Unity Players’, I believe in response to the need of several young people in Southwick to become involved in theatre. Betty Carpenter, as was, and Ralph Dawes are the only remaining members of that group to still be actively involved. Along with her husband, George, who continued to support the company long after her death in 1972, Molly opened their house at 26 Church Lane as the company base. This was long before the company could afford the rental of rehearsal/social rooms at the centre. [web ed for ‘centre’ read Southwick Community Centre]. Penny’s Wharf, the hub of their business lives, became home to set construction, painting and storage; their loft a costume store. She even floated the expenses for each production until the box office returns came in.

Their generosity extended far beyond providing the much needed spaces required for the ‘Young Wick’ as it later became to flourish. It also nurtured and encouraged everyone to feel confident and worthwhile, whatever their contribution.

This ethos became central to the spirit of Wick and judging by the amazing range of talent that can be fielded today, still continues. Molly remained as President of the company until her death, apart from a brief hiatus due to illness when she requested that Bess Blagden step in as caretaker.

I now recognise that the attitude of both Molly and George Penney to the Wick and the community in general was one of public-spirited concern, where the greater good of all was valued above personal, immediate gratification. I am sure that their involvement in so many aspects of public life must have been at the expense of family and individual privacy. This was never apparent due to their enthusiasm and energy for all community projects. ”