By Margaret Sheard …. 

This year was the first time I had been to the annual Military Band Concert event at Shakespeare House in Lefkoşa and we were accompanied by our friends Richard Chamberlain and his wife Weng.

After a rather gruelling traffic jammed journey from Girne we arrived at Shakespeare House and the gates were opened to allow us into the grounds to offload our picnic items and we were surprised and pleased that there was plenty of parking space within the grounds.  We were greeted by Maggie Kay and then shown to our table where we proceeded to unpack our goodies to eat before the concert started.   There were many familiar faces of people from various North Cyprus groups and associations, Royal British Legion – Kyrenia Branch, The Foreign Residents in the TRNC (TFR), Friends of the TRNC Emergency Services (112), Kyrenia Amateur Dramatic Society (KADS), Kyrenia Animal Rescue (KAR), Rotary Club of Kyrenia Cosmopolitan, there were probably many others but with the huge number of people there it was difficult to see everyone.

The event was organised by Jonny Kay, and he started his speech by welcoming the new British High Commissioner to Cyprus – Stephen Lillie, who arrived on the island on 29th April 2018, and thanking him for allowing this wonderful venue to be used for this occasion.   Jonny also gave a warm welcome to the Commander of the British Forces in Cyprus – Major General Illingworth and his wife Sam, and the new Chief of Staff – Colonel Ed Freely and his wife Fiona.

This was followed by a speech from Stephen Lillie, who welcomed international people who came from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, USA and Greek and Turkish Cypriot friends.

The event was in aid of the Army Benevolent Fund (ABF – The Soldiers’ Charity) which is the national charity of the British Army and the music was to be provided by The Band of the Queen’s Division (Director of Music Captain Ben Mason).  They all looked so smart and we were all waiting with anticipation for the start of the concert. There was a wide range of music played, commencing with the National Anthem and then first on the programme The Dambusters March which received resounding applause. There then followed many pieces, including music from films and stirring marches.  We were treated to a vocal solo from Corporal Amy Kent who also serves in the British Army and is based in the UK.

Richard Chamberlain (seated) with Dawn Matthews (second left) and Bill Matthews (right)

Richard Chamberlain is well-known in North Cyprus for his books of photographs taken in 1954/55 when he served in the British Army and was based in Famagusta.  Richard had brought some of his books along and there was great interest in them.   We also spotted Jarra Brown, who wrote the book “46 Miles” which covered the final journey of servicemen and women who had lost their lives while serving for their country and had been repatriated to the UK.    Signed copies of both Richard and Jarra’s books were included in the raffle prizes.

During the evening the prizes were given for the best decorated tables – first was Table 34 (British Beach Bums and Birds), second was Table 35 with the theme The Royal Wedding.   Then came the raffle draw where there were some wonderful prizes on offer.

Later we had Land of Hope and Glory, Jerusalem and Rule Britannia, all of which Amy sang beautifully.  We were not successful in obtaining flags here in North Cyprus but we were pleased to see so many people waving large and small flags and bunting. By this time most of the guests were up on their feet, joining in with the singing and generally showing much patriotism.

The Shakespeare House Military Band Concerts first started in 2002 and since then with the generosity of people attending a fantastic amount in the region of 116,000 euros has been raised for the Army Benevolent Fund.

Jonny Kay took the opportunity to thank those who had contributed to this wonderful event.

Honorary President of ABF – Lt. Col. (retired) Geoff Fryatt.   Chairman of the Cyprus Branch of the Army Benevolent Fund – Major (retired) Peter Hogg.  Bill and Dawn Matthews who travel from Paphos every year to man the ABF stall and also judge the tables.

Thanks also to Defence Adviser of the British High Commission – Colonel Martyn Forgrave, Lt. Col. Henry Searby, Major “Polly” Poulson, Major Alex Bowie, Captain Chris Yapp, Captain Matt Jones who currently serve with the United Nations.

There are many others who have contributed their time to this event, including Mark Ryan and Jonny’s wife Maggie who has given him tremendous support.

The hallway, Shakespeare House

This is some information about Shakespeare House.

The house was bought by the Ministry of Works in 1960 for £65,000 from Byron Pavlides, a local entrepreneur who had given the Governor a two month option on his house.  It was built in 1937 by a wealthy British resident and designed by a Cypriot architect in what the Ministry of Works surveyor described as a Venetian-cum-Byzantine style.  The Ministry architects hated the house and the Permanent Secretary annotated “What a frightful house, I only hope we didn’t allow ourselves to be bullied too easily into buying it”.  Three small adjoining plots were bought at the same time to create more space for a circular drive and parking, and two more in 1964 to guard against intrusive development, the whole site amounts to about 4½ acres. 

Little has changed since 1959 and today Shakespeare House is still used by the British High Commissioner to entertain dignitaries and to hold formal and informal meetings.

This was a lovely setting and in my opinion Shakespeare House is a beautiful building. It was a wonderful event and we look forward to being able to be a part of it next year.