Down Memory Lane: Murder at Manorless Court: An update

Liz Franklin, who was for many years a Guild member, was browsing the Guild website, wondering what we were all up to, when she happened upon a ‘Down Memory Lane’ story about the Guild’s 2002 murder mystery venture, Murder at Manorless Court. The report started: ‘No one is quite sure who came up with the idea – or at least no one will admit to it – but the event saw eight Guild members strutting their stuff on a real London stage.’

Liz raced to her computer and dashed off an email: ‘Well, it was me!

‘At the time I was Vice Chair to Rosie Stark as Chairwoman. I was very involved with the Fairbridge Scheme in Brixton – a group of Guild members had started to go in there on Friday mornings to teach cookery and life skills to “youths”. We only had the most basic of equipment, and it was a struggle. When I first started teaching, there was little interest, and the kids would make any excuse to escape – cigarette and toilet breaks they were reluctant to return from etc. But with patience and persistence (and interesting classes), their attitude changed, and soon they were waiting for me at the door to take the shopping from me as I arrived (having schlepped on the train from Tunbridge Wells with it) and chatting enthusiastically about their own cuisines (many were from ethnic minorities).

‘So I put it to the committee at the time (Sarah Jane Evans was President), that we should do a murder mystery event to raise money to build a better kitchen at Fairbridge. Luckily, they seemed to go for the crazy idea – I contacted Janet Laurence and asked her to write the play. Originally Antonio Carluccio had agreed to play the role that Gennaro Contaldo eventually took on (Carluccio dropped out last minute – which is why Contaldo had to read his lines from prompts all the time). I got together the cast – and the committee members went into “organise mode” to get sponsors and the venue etc. I remember going to Gennaro's restaurant to ask him to step in for Carluccio and having the most fantastic meal (on the house) – as well as him saying yes! We made it optional for Guild Members coming along to watch to wear fancy dress too. I went to all the rehearsals, helped paint the scenery (with Alastair Hendy) and it was a massive success. I seem to remember we raised well over £2,000 in aid of Fairbridge.

‘I'll never forget the lovely Marguerite Patten showing me her terrible bruises after the performance – she'd had an accident at the train station following the final dress-rehearsal when she fell because of the gap between the train and the platform. It was a testament to her professionalism, determination and “can-do” attitude that she went ahead on the night without mentioning a single word until afterwards. What a wonderful lady she was.

‘I was also very involved with the original cooking competition for children (the CookIt! campaign). My eldest son designed the original logo (with the fried eggs replacing the “oo” in Cook)’.

Liz reports that she is now the head of beautiful cookery school in Warminster, and is thinking of rejoining the Guild. She also wonders why the Guild has never put on a sequel to Murder at Manorless Court; so we await her return with bated breath.

You can watch a video of this historic event on the Guild YouTube channel: