With the benefit of hindsight we can now appreciate that the birth of the Grange Theatre occurred at a point in the country’s history which would bring wide-ranging changes to society. Just twelve weeks before our first production (Memory of Spring in June 1971) decimal currency was introduced, while two years later came membership of the Common Market and all that entailed.
Metrication in paper sizes had, by 1970, taken firm hold and the earlier Imperial sizes were relegated to history. Almost: up and down the land, small jobbing printing houses were using up their old stocks for customers’ display work (posters, etc as opposed to correspondence work). The programmes for Memory of Spring, and our third production (Beauty and the Beast in February 1972) comprised simply one sheet of Foolscap Folio (the once-common Imperial paper size measuring eight inches by thirteen) traditionally printed letterpress in black ink on both sides. A local printer in Chipping Norton was using up his stocks of this imperial sized paper and we were happy to accept what came.
But the writing was on the wall. For the second show (The Boyfriend in late 1971) we were supplied with the soon-to-be ubiquitous ISO 216 metric A4 sized paper folded to create an A5 programme comprising an outer cover bearing a sketch of the Grange which enclosed a single A4 folded sheet creating a title page, a double page spread and – if extra text was needed – a back page too. This became the format in which all subsequent productions were printed apart, oddly enough, for two shows in 2004 and 05 which were double-sided A4 sheets unfolded.
Whilst metric sized papers quickly became the norm, the long-established reproduction of text by hand-set letterpress continued strongly amongst the jobbing printing fraternity although the bigger houses had gone over to offset lithography some ten years earlier in the 1960s. One strong advantage of litho work is the ability to reproduce images without the need for expensively etched printing plates and this hastened the switch away from letterpress. Although our programmes’ inner sheet continued being printed thus until Fools Rush In (1973), the covers now boasted an artistic sketch of the Grange which our long-standing supporter Andrew Jenner produced.
The three shows (our success was growing!) produced during 1973 each carried this litho image but with Fools Rush In the inner page was also printed litho and Andrew’s artwork was slightly reduced to give a better balance to the page.
That wasn’t the end of our letterpress connection though; traditionally, jobbing printers retained a tiny letterpress machine to print tickets on pasteboard and, of course, our theatre tickets were ideal for this continued mode of reproduction.
So matters continued their untroubled way until late 1979 when a new illustration was called for by Fred and Val. Such had become the popularity of our small theatre that patrons were asking for some memento of their visit. Could an image be created showing the east side (that aspect facing arriving patrons) and also the south side (quite well hidden behind some large bushes which gave privacy to the house’s verandah)? Photography was attempted but that pesky greenery and the established trees prevented a camera being positioned such that both aspects were visible.
The answer was for an illustrator to produce two drawings which were then combined and adjusted for perspective, and with the bushes much reduced in size. Keith Bennett undertook this task and happily the artwork pretty well fitted across the back and front covers. It was first used in June 1980 for A Classical Music Quartet.
The paper stock was smooth but for Fantasy … a Victorian Christmas (1980) the printer offered us a leatherette-embossed finish; this worked really rather well, gave our little programme a quality feel, and was used from then on until the end of the theatre in 2009.