TV Cream

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Houseparty

TOO OFTEN are the ITV stations tarred with the ‘eyes and teeth’ brush of tawdry showbiz. Here was one independent afternoon banker that was as unglamorous as the medium ever got. August 19th, 1969 saw Southern’s first colour transmissions hit the air with the orange and brown finery of the Houseparty kitchen-cum-lounge, a modernist, open-plan affair complete with Formica surfaces and Hessian wall-weave, lovingly recreated in Southampton’s studio 1. Punctuated by the occasional guest-introducing doorbell (“I wonder who that could be?”), the mumsy Ann Ladbury and the patrician former model Cherry Marshall (later joined by daughter Sarah) led a genteel, open-ended stream of chat among half a dozen personable housewives over the Poole pottery chinaware, with the viewer as casual eavesdropper.

‘Eavesdropping’ was the key. The whole thing literally fell onto the air, with nary a title sequence or theme tune to its name, just the ladies appearing underneath the good old Southern compass ident, in mid-chat (sometimes mid-sentence) and trundled on, with the viewer neither acknowledged nor appealed to, until the close, where a few credits would flash on the screen, and the ladies would fade out, carrying on their business. It’s the sort of odd format that would generate reams of over-excited copy from media studies wonks if it surfaced today, but back then it was what it was – a quick dip in to a never-ending cavalcade of teatime banter, with absolutely nothing added.

Loose Women this was decidedly not. Half-formed rants about the news were a no-no (unless it was helpful stuff to do with “prices”), and the phrase “isn’t that right, girls?” was conspicuous by its absence. Instead, knitware, cookery and macramé were the order of the day, the raciest it ever got being when bras were tried on for size (over the twin-sets, of course). Lucy Morgan, the glamorous one, showed off the natty little numbers she’d picked out in the local jumble sale, and crafted handbags from Victorian tea cosies. Sylvia Marshall (no relation) arrived and switfly rose to ‘head of the household’ status. Mary Morris was the redoubtable cook, often accompanied by the less able Daphne Lee or Karen Saxby in a ramshackle run-through of a recipe read off a crumpled piece of notepaper (“Is this a wartime recipe?”), which pre-dated Blue Peter‘s flour-spilling cackhandedness by a good few years.

Sadly, even this seemingly non-stop cosy camaraderie had to come to an end when Southern lost its franchise to the more socially ambitious TVS, and the final programme was appropriately emotional – no tears or anything of course, that wasn’t the Houseparty way, just a few rather touching goodbyes and one last round of tea. Well, they didn’t like to make a fuss.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Arthur Nibble

    June 8, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Happy holiday memories dahn Sarf…”Southern Rhapsody”, Houseparty, How, Freewheelers…marvellous, isn’t it, wasn’t it, hmm?

  2. Kitten in a Brandy Glass

    June 15, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    My clearest Houseparty memory is of someone bringing out one of those personal alarm thingies you carry around in your handbag (coo, awareness of women’s issues!), and saying that it was 50 decibels or whatever it was. Then there was a slight pause and someone said “Tell me, Mary, what IS a decibel?”

  3. Sarah Litvinoff

    October 1, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Ah happy memories! As Cherry’s daughter, I can correct the copy to say that my name is Sarah, and my sister, Vida also came on the programme from time to time when she was visiting from Italy. My daughter, Jemilah, also came on the programme — I was a shock! horror! single mother, and Jemilah is mixed race, so it caused a bit of a stir when she was born, and also helped normalise this situation in the early 70s. If it happened to Cherry’s daughter then it *must* be OK…

    Sylvia Marshall, also known as Marshie, was Cherry’s contemporary. She was a plus-size matron model on Cherry’s model agency, and took the name Marshall as homage. They were great friends, and Sylvia was the robust heart of the programme — pretty naughty with it, and probably was an early pre-echo of Loose Women.

    I remember the last programme as a bit of an embarrassment, it was decided we would stage it as a fancy dress party, and we all looked mad! There were about 30 women then appearing on the programme, some just occasionals, unlike Cherry, Marshe, Ann, Lucy and Mary, but we all squeezed in for the final goodbye.

    • TV Cream

      October 2, 2010 at 3:52 pm

      Many thanks for all this great info, Sarah. Marshall misattributions duly corrected.

      • Mrs Findlay

        February 19, 2017 at 3:26 pm

        Hello!

        How fab to find these “Houseparty” memories and post from my mum!

        My name is Jemilah. I am Cherry Marshall’s grand-daughter and Sarah’s daughter. I appeared regularly on the show when it came back to Meridian and from time-to-time in the original series. In fact my first ever outing aged six-weeks was on to “Houseparty”. Carried in a now-outlawed yellow plastic kiddie bag 🙂

        There are several episodes of “Houseparty” on YouTube now. Including two x-rated overdubbed ones (Housewife Waffle and Housewife Waffle the reunion). One is from the original series featuring Cherry, among others. I am featured in the Reunion episode. I am the one in the black dress… yikes!

        There are 15 or so real episodes. Not sure if anyone would be interested but I am back to making music after having two children. When Cherry died something kind of snapped in my heart and I couldn’t play. Ten years on and I am back to it. I call myself Mrs Findlay which is true, and I wanted a musical identity that included my family.

        I have a lyric video for my song “Stay” on YouTube.

        Thanks again for remembering us all 🙂 love the behind the scenes photo! I’ve never seen one of those before 🙂

        Very best wishes,

        Jemilah

        xx

  4. Matt

    October 1, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    Hi Sarah.

    I very dear friend of mine is the Son of Lucy
    ( Maureen Solomon ) who sadly died far too young.

    Are there any clips of her and the show anywhere, I have seen a few but not with her in.

    Regards
    Matt

  5. Heather

    November 29, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Can I just say how much I loved this programme. I would watch it as a young mother and wish my life was more like that 🙂

  6. Jen

    December 11, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Who was the tall elegant woman who wore silver jewellery and “arty” clothes? She made me realise that getting older didn’t mean turning into a frump so many thanks to her. I was just married and had moved out of London and watched whenever I wasn’t working.

  7. Sam

    December 12, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Most likely my mother, Daphne Lee, sadly now gone but the jewellery lives on as I now wear it!

  8. Jardineiro

    December 15, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Raggot

  9. Val Manchee

    January 11, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    I remember Maureen Solomon well and her children. The father of her youngest child is my cousin and her sister was married to another cousin. Long time ago but not forgotten.

    Houseparty was good. Happy memories.

  10. Lucy Solomon

    May 10, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    Lucy Morgan (Solomon) was my Mum – I am her daughter Lucy! I would love to see any videos of her as I don’t have any. If you have any please email lucysolomon@hotmail.co.uk
    Thanks very much
    🙂

  11. Lynne Tate

    August 31, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    Loved this programme and have searched the web to discover what happened to the presenters and their families when the show was cut. What happened to Jean (Orba I think) and Cherry’s beloved grandaughter Jamilah? I seem to remember that there was a sort of sequel with Una Stubbs and Lucy Morgan presenting.

    Lucy, I am sure I saw something with your lovely mum somewhere on the web last year.

    Daphne was a role model for me too. Wasn’t she best friends with Mary the cook?

    I saw Cherry and Ann at one of the presentations they did throughout the UK. I also treasure books I have that were written by Cherry. There were some wonderful obituaries when she sadly died.

  12. James Sheen

    November 6, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    You might be interested to know that I have uploaded a three episodes of the revived Houseparty. A particular favourite of mine shows Cherry Marshall (Irene Pearson), and Anne Ladbury cooking in the kitchen. In between the recipe, is gossip about Sylvia Marshall (Marshie), and the fact that she had a pacemaker and her house was hit by lightning, back to the recipe, before returning to the subject of Marshie whether she had survived or not Classic!

  13. Graham

    August 27, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Looking at this website reminds of what the housewife would’ve done years ago (and is probably still doing to this day). Sorry to hear that members of presenting team are no longer with us and that includes the then young looking Lucy. This programme has been subject to parody in my stories as part of Southern England history.

  14. David Leeming

    October 29, 2014 at 2:12 am

    I was brought up loving the Houseparty ladies,Cherry, Sylvia, Anne, and dear Lucy became true friends..I was in a few Saturday morning tv shows made by Southern TV, and was entranced by the ladies who filmed in studio 1! Jean Orba was fascinating, and was an ex air stewardess with her stories of travelling the world! Mary with her recipes, Deborah her daughter, a dentist, was always cooking up recipes and treats..Mim Summers, lyn Ingles, I recall them all with great affection. I have a video of the final Houseparty, and “Its goobye from us” Southerns last ever broadcast.. ..I d love to contact anyone connected with Houseparty, and hear any news…I went on to work in modelling , encouraged by dear Cherry,then worked as a radio presenter…later I joined BA as cabin crew, and Jeans tales I m sure was partly my motivation ! All in all , a golden era of tv, and lovely ladies who became friends to many..I remember them all with great respect..my e mail is psrleeming@yahoo.ie…Would be great to hear from anyone connected with the programme.

  15. Jeremy

    May 19, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    Are the women still around?, I used to watch it, what ever happened to MarynMorris, is she cooking stuff?

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