The group photograph is a cutting from the Sentinel Newspaper – September 4th 1964 – The girl in the front centre is Winner Audrey Simpson
HEADLINE – HOUSEWIFE IS 1964 CHARM GIRL
Sentinel editorial – The Lord & Lady Mayoress of Stoke-on-Trent (Alderman and Mrs E Hume) are with film stars and competitors in the “Grand final” of the weekly Sentinel 1964 Charm Girl Contest at the ABC CineBowl. Winner Mrs Simpson 22 who was described by one of the judges as very talented and charming, works in the fashion department of a well known Hanley Store. She played netball for the Moorland Youth Club in Burslem and for the City Youth Team in an international tournament. Mrs Simpson has now been married for 18 months.
Audrey Simpson was born in the historical town of Burslem in the City of Stoke on Trent in 1942.
Burslem was written as ‘Bursley’ in Arnold Bennett’s novel “Anna of the five towns” his second novel written in 1902.
Audrey was destined to perform in the play of the same name in the millennium production performed by Center Stage Theatre in 2004.
Audrey is one of four children and has a sister and two brothers. She began her education at Jackfields infants in Burslem. She later moved on to Moorland Road School where she stayed until she reached school leaving age. She remembers being a happy and contented child with no overpowering vocational calling apart from the fact that she loved the theatre but was persuaded by her family not to consider it as a job opportunity.
When she left school she was in fact quite content to use her communication skills as the receptionist in an opticians store where she enjoyed working for four years.
It was while her husband, a senior executive for Michelin was working in Nigeria that she was approached by Elsie Jones manager of Lewis’s Store who having noticed Audreys striking appearance and dress sense invited her to join the perfume department. She was offered to take on the Lady Manhattan Fields Perfume Desk which she later accepted. The manager had recruited well as Audrey proved extremely successful and earned substantial commission for her escalating sales. When asked how she managed to make it such a success she answers modestly “If you are polite and have a genuine smile people will always respond” Audrey has an engaging personality, is rarely without a smile and has a compelling appetite for laughter.
Her fashion sense and obvious sales skills were soon to be recognised by the Fashion Department Manager from the exclusive top floor and Audrey was given the opportunity to join her team. It was there that she was to exploit the sewing skills endowed by her mother as well as her intuitive sales skills. Customers would only buy fashionable dresses if Audrey was available because she would happily do alterations in her lunch break. The customers alternative was to wait days for the alterations department to get round to it. Once again her multiple skills brought considerable financial and material benefits as her success won many prizes. She once found herself chatting with Ursula Andress and Vincent Price at Elstree Studios in London as part of a prize she had won.
Life also had its moments of grief and frustration. On the way home from a holiday in Dublin where she and her husband were visiting his nephew, they stopped in the city centre to buy some clothes for their journey home. They returned to the car park to find their car had been stolen. The car was not only full of suitcases, golf clubs. expensive tennis rackets and Audrey’s jewelry box but also their ferry tickets home. Prudently her husband had ensured that the car was fully insured which was just as well as it was discovered by the police, burnt out in a dangerous Dublin no go area. There was of course no sign their belongings or the culprits. Fortunately in spite of there being no car for the insurance agents to actually examine in order to confirm the story they ultimately agreed to honour the claim in any case.
Some time later she was approached by the head of costume department to work at the Victoria Theatre in Newcastle under Lyme. That was the moment when her negotiation skills emerged as she only agreed on condition she would also be given acting parts to play. They kept their word and also she met famous stage people. She got on well with many such as Robert Powell and his wife Barbara who was in Pans People. Her schoolgirl desire to act on stage was finally realised.
That was the beginning of her lifelong involvement with live theatre. Subject to her bubbling sense of humour she loved the comedy parts and won regular awards for her performances. It has also become a family affair as Audrey’s husband Keith works alongside her, creating scenery, props or as front of house. She also has a busy life outside theatre working on the NSPCC committee and as an active member of the local tennis club. She has two sons and three grandchildren one of which has taken to the boards herself becoming a trained and popular opera singer in her own right.
Audrey joined Endon Dramatic Society in 1990 and has been involved in the following productions:-
1990 – The town that would have a pageant – Amy Frith + costumes & The chalk garden – Third applicant 1991 – Basin full of the BrIny – Clara Hemingway 1992 – The Holly and the Ivy – make up 1993 – Gaslight – costumes. The camel’s back – Mrs Middleton-Jones + costumes 1995 – Habeas corpus – Constance Wicksteed Awarded trophy for best supporting role in the NSDA festival The anniversary – Karen 1996 – Laugh, I nearly went to Miami – costumes 1997 – Night must fall – costumes Farndale: Macbeth – Kate Perry Jones + costumes 1998 – The secret tent – Make-up team. Farndale: A Christmas Carol – Kate Parry Jones 1999 – A tomb with a view – Costumes. 2000 – Possession is – Bella + Costumes 2001 – Day of reckoning – Ethel Swift + costumes Respecting your peers – Jackie + plus costumes and Make-up. 2002 – Blithe Spirit – Madam Acarti. 2003 – Ladies of spirit – Miss Mandley. Absent friends – Marge. 2004 – Thriller of the year – Irene Knight. 2005 – Cat’s cradle – Miss Burton + Wardrobe 2006 – Beyond a joke – Sarah 2007 – Love begins at fifty – Furnishings. Shut your eyes and think of England – Furnishings stage design + Costumes. 2008 – A bird in the hand – Helen + Costumes and wigs Nominated for best supporting performance in the NSDA festival. 2010 – And evermore shall be so – Sheila Pashley She also played on the following productions of The Centre Stage Theatre Company 1998 – Fifteen Streets – Mary Ellen O’Brien + costumes. 1999 – Fur coat and no knickers – Muriel Greenhalgh (Grooms mother). 2000 – Anna of the five towns – adult chorus. 2004 – Under milkwood – Mrs Dai Bread
When asked what advice she would give to the next generation she replied immediately with the name of her favourite song. “Always look on the bright side of life”