Meall, Billy (2 of 8) An Oral History of Theatre Design
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Interviewee's home, Liverpool
Meall, Billy 1937- (speaker, male)
Wright, Elizabeth (speaker, female)
Part 2: Further comments about BM’s role at the English Stage Company [ESC]; description of matching colours to the model; using powder paints and size; importance of good colour sense; painting brick walls to look aged. Alan Tagg, a designer at the ESC who lived near Trafalgar Square; Tim O’Brien’s precise measurements; mention of Tazina Firth; talking to these designers. [0:03:08] Mention of work BM has being doing for the past nine days on location at Stanley Dock, Liverpool, for a BBC film set in 1887; mention that Billie Piper and Julie Walters are in the film; watching a stunt; anecdote about a James Bond stuntman’s fees. Scanachrome printed street scene; working with another scenic artist on the BBC job, Nick. Comparison of working in television and theatre; theatre designers who make money by being paid a percentage on a West End show; BM’s first significant percentage for ‘War of the Newts’ with Ken Campbell [KC] at the Riverside Studios. [0:07:24] Being introduced to agent, Sally Hope [SH], by Bob Hoskins [BH]; staying with Sally Hope and socialising in London. Working with BH at The Almeida with Hugh Cornwell from ‘The Stranglers’; story about designing costumes for the band; mention that Stephen Rea was also in the play, ‘Charlie’s Last Round’, a benefit to fundraise for the Almeida. BH’s role in distributing ‘The Long Good Friday’ with financial support from George Harrison’s company, Handmade Films. [0:11:58] Not getting much work from having an agent; her assistance with the contract for ‘When the Wind Blows’ [WTWB]. Story about extended run of WTWB; BM’s fee for this; holiday in the South of France after the show opened. [0:14:22] Travelling as a family; holiday to Russia; not seeing much theatre whilst there because resident companies were away; importance of travel. BM’s first trips overseas as a child to Ireland and camping in Europe while daughter Jocelyn was small; daytrips to New Brighton on the ferry as a child; comments about never having owned a car; mention of driving friend, Chris Waite’s car around his land in Wales; story about sailing with him and his father in Norfolk, along with his father’s friend, the Bishop of Maidenhead; description of his book about film. [0:23:10] BM’s mother; comment that she should have been an actress; her handwriting; her work for the church; her lack of education; mention that she died at 47 of a brain tumour; mention that she worked in factories in Kirkby. [Section closed from 0:24:20 to 0:27:47] Description of father’s appearance; his muscles from work as a hod carrier; his tattoos; feelings about tattoos and piercings; father’s time in the navy; work at the end of his life as a caretaker; work at Aintree Racecourse. Aunt in London who became a surrogate mother to BM; counselling after death of wife; mention that the counsellor was the mother of the McGann brothers, actors. [0:31:09] Mention that wife, Les, died eight years ago; her dog; story about the dog unravelling the carpet; death of dog from cancer; his name, Harry; dog’s chemotherapy treatment; his breed; reasons for not wanting to get another dog. [0:34:37] Hobbies as a child; radio; neighbour who got a television. Living in Everton until the age of twelve; moving to Kirkby and changing schools at that time. Description of house in Everton; change from gas lighting to electricity; range fire; mention that house belonged to grandmother; bedrooms; BM’s room; reasons why this was known as “Mason’s Room”; grandfather’s conversion to Catholicism; being an altar boy; fasting before communion; eating salt fish for breakfast. [0:39:09] Family meals; Christmas tree. Falling into an open fire aged three; spending Christmas in hospital; catching Scarlet Fever there; spending Christmas in the fever ward and being given a horse on wheels for Christmas; meeting somebody who was on the ward at the time and remembers BM’s horse; hospital ward; seeing bath full of sweets. Childhood illness; attending open air school in Fazakerley; encouragement from Headmistress, Miss Tunnycliffe, a Quaker. Other childhood health problems; being run over by a milk lorry. [0:45:00] First school, “Our Lady’s” in Everton; first day at school; coming home at playtime; being caned for lateness; bullying; becoming a joker as a defence mechanism. Description of the open air school; lessons there; teachers; being encouraged to read; mention of wife’s love of reading. [0:49:23] Uniform at school in Kirkby; reasons for move to Kirkby to a council house with an outdoor bathroom; mention that father still lives there. Comments about daughter’s twin daughters; her husband, Mark; their house in Cressington; Mark’s business; decorating the nursery for the babies. JM’s career; her meeting with Kathy Burke about designing the play, ‘Smaller’ featuring Dawn French and Alison Moyet; comment that JM is enjoying motherhood. Mark’s skill as a cook; his family. [0:55:13] Memories of sister, Kathleen’s birth; staying with aunt and uncle in St Helen’s; effects on uncle of being a prisoner of war in Burma; uncle’s membership of a miner’s fishing club; mention that uncle died last year from a disease related to mining; leaf fossil he gave to BM; decorating pieces of coal or charred wood with gold leaf. [1:00:17] Interest in chemistry at school; Air Training Corps [ATC], St Helen’s Squadron 243; gliding; other ATC activities; friends in the squadron. Losing track of friends having moved to London; losing Liverpool accent there; further comments about CO.
Life story interview with Billy Meall (????-), theatre designer.