History of the Basingstoke Ladies Choir

Taken from "Hampshire, the County Magazine", 1997.

The Basingstoke Ladies Choir started in 1964, a General Election year. The new Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, promised a white-hot revolution in technology. It was the era of the Beatles, the axing of the railways by Beeching, and for Basingstoke a continued upheaval brought about by some of London's overspill population arriving in our small market country town.

County and town councils, the workers' educational association and other groups produced reports on integration of "the strangers". Those reports resulted in clubs and societies covering sports, photography, theatre, adult learning, archaeology and music.

One of these was a Young Wives' Club, on the Oakridge housing estate built to accommodate workers at the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston. 18 young wives, encouraged by an amateur musician, Cornishman Ken Williams, founded the Oakridge Singers and met in a prefabricated hut used by building contractors. They were often working wives: secretaries, nurses, and teachers. In time, they moved from the prefabricated hut to St Thomas' School for the Deaf, not because of any musical inadequacy but because of the school's proximity to Oakridge!

The young wives' initial aim to relax and enjoy comradeship while improving their singing turned into a wish to raise money for charities by entertaining the public. They were soon entering festival competitions and their popularity, like that of the Beatles, increased but, unlike the Beatles, they never disbanded. Other singing groups from firms in the town, notably Lansing Bagnall, joined them, so a new name was adopted; The Basingstoke Ladies Choir. It grew rapidly, and today with some fifty members the aims still prevail.