Mother’s desire for doll inspires play

A PLAY by playwright and producer Brian Daniels will commemorate the 140th anniversary of the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board.

Research has been intense and widespread as Brian started interviewing people in the community more than a year ago for his play, All I Wanted Was A Doll.

Brian’s main aim was to get a feel of what it was like for Jewish immigrants in the 1940s — pre and post-war period — who were arriving in the community.

“It was a time when the Welfare Board was really taking off after being closely-associated with the groundbreaking Leeds Board of Guardians,” he said.

“I remember hearing about my grandparents and, later on, my parents calling upon the Board of Guardians for small financial loans.

“My mum recalls as a little girl accompanying her mother for a two-shilling hand-out in Brunswick Place to help budget the family income.

“Mum stemmed from a rather poor family. She lost her mother when she was only three. But out of all the things she could have wished for, all she wanted was a doll, hence the title.”

He added: “The main priorities, of course, were clothes and food, so there were no luxuries like a doll, consequently I’ve woven that into the story, although it is heavily disguised.”

There are some interesting local characters featured in the play and Brian maintains many will be recognisable, especially former chief executive Sheila Saunders.

“I had to illustrate how the Welfare Board has evolved over the decades, so today, instead of giving hand-outs, they are now giving hand-ups.

“There are references to the meals-on-wheels service and the many people who laid the foundation to what the Board has become.

“There is also something in the piece about people with learning disabilities and being made to feel part of the community by offering a level of independence.

“A section on how the Housing Association came to be established is also included.

“And, of course, the great initiatives are included, such as the shows they staged at Leeds theatres and the huge fundraising drives — those are all in the play.

“It’s a gentle stroll down the Board’s long journey, but on a wider basis, the play illustrates how important it is for communities to support each other.

“And from the Leeds perspective, the contribution is unique, as is the Welfare Board and the community centre, the hub of the community.”

There are two script-in-hand performances, afternoon and evening, which will be professionally directed at the community centre on Tuesday, February 6 (2.30pm and 6.30pm).

Brian is still searching for anyone who would like to participate. No acting experience is necessary.

Tickets: 0113 218 5893 or victoria.sandler@ljwb.co.uk while actors can email Brian at brdan@icloud.com

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