The International Arts League of Youth

21st February 2010

A letter came in from Moira Badstubner (née Williams). She wrote:

"This is just a short letter to pay tribute to one of the early conductors of the Durban Civic Orchestra - Edward Dunn. Whenever I hear classic music, it invariably stirs my memories of Edward Dunn's selection for his various concerts. His influence must have left an indelible mark on the youth in the 1950's.

"The International Arts League of Youth, of which he was the patron, collected the youth from all over the world to stay at the various private homes of the public of Durban in July. Pietermaritzburg and Windhoek were well represented. We were given such high quality lectures, concerts and met so many wonderful people.

"Hugh Tracey, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Cecilia Wessels, Moira Birks, Joy Shearer, John Hussey, Campoli, Cassado, Michael Denison, Anthony Millican.....etc just to name a few celebrities who shared their talents with us teenagers at the time.

"To any "survivors" who remember those days - I say "Cheers to Edward Dunn". Some of the youth at that time were Theo Shippey, Louis Burke, Robin Alexander and Napier Dunn, who has since passed away. The late Father Eldred Leslie also contributed to the success of this Arts League.

This is a tribute from one of the many teenagers who were given the opportunity of meeting and sharing experiences with exceptional personalities and receiving the benefit of hearing classical music at its best."

I'd appreciate hearing from anyone who knows more about Edward Dunn and the International Arts League of Youth.

In reply to the letter from Moira Badstubner on Edward Dunn and The International Arts League of Youth. I asked for more information about the organisation and got this from Dawn Compton (née King):

I was also a member of the Arts League and very glad to see that Moira Williams has posted a tribute to Edward Dunn and this organisation. I think it was way ahead of its time, as it involved a huge amount of organising: all this in an era which had no IT technology to aid it, only old-fashioned typewriters and telephones (no direct dialling either!)

Though Edward Dunn was obviously the driving force behind the idea, I should like to pay tribute to some of the people who made it happen. For a start there was Mrs Gladys Lucas, the General Secretary who kept everything and everyone on track, from a small office in what was the old National Mutual Building on the corner of Smith and Gardiner Streets, near the Royal Hotel. People on the Committee whose names come to mind are Isabel and Maurice Alexander (Robin’s parents) Councillor Mary Asher, Vin and Kay Bell, Keppoch McDonald, Ida Robertson, and probably others. These all contributed a huge amount to ensuring the success of the Festivals.

Louis Burke’s mother, Poppins Salomon, taught me ballet. I was quite often at the house and knew Louis, Robin Alexander and others in that group quite well.

Fr Eldred Leslie was well known to me, both before and after he entered the priesthood, and I was saddened and shocked last year to learn of his brutal murder in Pietermaritzburg.

Gladys Lucas was also a leading light in the Durban Operatic Society, again in Edward Dunn’s time. It would be nice if someone could post something about this Society, which put on many memorable productions and added a lot to the cultural life of Durban. Hope there are still people around who can contribute.

Dawn Compton (née King)

Dawn then wrote and said:

I attach the 2 photos of IALY people taken on the steps of the Durban City Hall, Festival 1955. They are not marvellous quality- a Kodak Box Brownie was a bit primitive.

Picture courtesy Dawn Compton

Photo IALY 1:  on the left is Coral Lucas (Gladys Lucas’ daughter, now Coral Carroll and like me, living in the UK). On the right is Annette Wills. Many of you from the 50’s will remember the Verant Wills Band, probably the best dance band in Durban at the time. Annette is the daughter of Verant Wills.

Picture courtesy Dawn Compton

Photo IALY 2: this is more difficult, maybe someone will recognise themselves! In the middle row, above the 2 girls in the middle foreground, is Desmond Kelly, and on his right, Alan Riddell. Above left of Alan could be Myra Geshen, and very top right is again Coral Lucas.

You may notice that some are wearing what appear to be skull caps (we called them Juliet caps). They were made of felt, and quite artistically decorated. The purpose was to make delegates recognisable to the folk of Durban, and I think I remember that bus travel was free if you were wearing one!

In response to the above, Desmond Kelly wrote in June 2010:

Hello Moira, hello Dawn

Picture courtesy Des Kelly. At the equator.

I was searching for Eldred Leslie's address when I came across the IALY page on internet. It also woke many memories of the past. The two concerts in the Durban City Hall that I remember distinctly are of the tenor Jussi Bjorling and Larry Adler playing his mouth organ. My Saturday morning was generally spent at the library and then round the block where I sat in the back row and enjoyed Edward Dunn rehearsing the orchestra.

Was Hugh Tracey a specialist of African music ? If I am correct, his son has a collection of African music and instruments in Grahamstown. He surely inherited these from his father.

I spoke to Theo Shippey a few years back when I was in Cape Town. His brother Kim, Radio the sports reporter, was in America. As a schoolboy I once presented a 30 minute programm "My kind of music" and was assisted by Kim. They had a younger brother whose name I cannot remember. The other young people I remember from Pietermaritzburg are Sven Silén and his sister. In Durban I remember Louis Burke, Robin Alexander and Alan Riddell.

I had a good contact with Eldred Leslie from his time as mayoral secretary before he entered the priesthood. It was Eldred who taught me to appreciate Beethoven. Later we went on long walks together one of them being from Durban to Pietermaritzburg on the Comrades route. We the hitch-hiked back to Durban. In August 1960 Eldred visited us on a few occasions when we were living near Zurich.

I hitch-hiked from Durban to London and later married Charlotte from Switzerland. (see for more information). My immediate circle of friends were Graham and Duncan Greaves, John and Patrick Chambers, Gordon Weber. John was unfortunately murdered in Turkey in 1963 when I was on my way to visit him. Elsie Chambers, John and Patrick's mother spent many years teaching us to sing Christmas carols

Dawn! I certainly recognise my photograph in Photo IALY 2:

Des Kelly


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