The Night Hollywood Came to Trent Park

The Night Hollywood Came to Trent Park

I was at Trent Park’s teacher training college from ​‘66 to ​‘69 – the Swingin” Sixties – though I didn’t do much swinging! I was the first in my family to go on to tertiary education, I’d been at one of the early comprehensive schools in Coventry. It wouldn’t have been possible without student grants and living expenses paid by one’s home local authority. I can’t imagine how folk manage these days.

I’d wanted to leave school at 16 and work in a library, but my dad had said that they were ​“crying out for teachers” and encouraged me to stay on at school and train as a teacher – so that’s what I did. As in turns out, my whole future was set from the moment I was accepted at Trent. After my second Teaching Practice out at Dagenham in May ​‘67, I left a college book at the infants” school and the headmistress sent her rather dishy son over with it. The headmistress’s name was Mrs Ayres… And the rest is history!

The cellar where Trent Park’s famous Secret Listeners were based was, in my day, the dark and noisy student bar with – from what I remember – swirly purple and orange psychedelic walls. We had no idea about what had happened there just 25 years earlier. The daffodils every spring were a delight to look forward to, and we certainly appreciated and enjoyed the country house feel and the space and beauty of the grounds.

During my time at Trent, there was one particularly exciting night – Orson Welles came to Trent Park to film a scene for Michael Winner’s movie I’ll Never Forget What’s ​’is name. Even better, so too was Oliver Reed, darling of the hip mid-60s generation. The swimming pool, (always empty throughout my time there, which we students thought was very unfair) was filled and adorned with faux statuary, wisteria, flamingoes and floating plastic water lilies. The set up took all day, ready for filming to commence after dark, lights positioned and just outside the principal, Mr Theakston’s, room, a brazier fire was placed for the benefit of Mr Welles as it was – as I remember – a cold November night.

Determined to get an autograph, I wriggled my way to the front of the surrounding crowd, to see the vast seated bulk of the world famous actor/director, dressed in his signature huge, black cloak and a wide-brimmed black fedora. He was silent and gave the impression of being mildly amused, smoking a large cigar, wheezing gently as he did so. He signed my proffered paper then I realised Oliver Reed was there also. I passed the paper to him too and he also signed, using his dazzling smile to attempt to charm, ​‘You must be very cold,’ he remarked in his dark brown voice. ​‘Oh no, I can go back to my room – it must be much worse for you out here!’ I blithely replied, singularly unimpressed, as my heartthrob at the time was David Warner, the very antithesis of Oliver Reed.

Filming for the short scene began, showing an argument between Andrew Quint (Reed) and Jonathan Lute, his advertising executive boss (Welles) and with a young woman, Susannah who had to swim in the (unheated!) pool for an advertisement, but jeering at Quint with whom she’d had an affair. The same section was repeated again and again. It finally ended with Quint diving into the water fully clothed to stop Susannah’s unscripted taunts. That may have been done in one take, though my memory could be mistaken, and it was perhaps done twice with Reed having to change and warm up in between.

It was pretty cold and the slow-moving process of film making was unfamiliar to me and eventually I’d had enough and went back to my room on the first floor in Gubbay Hall West. The next morning it was all over, though the film props were still there – but not for long. I admit to sneaking away a plastic water lily as a souvenir, but many other things disappeared too, and the principal had to put up a notice to all students demanding the return of the plastic flamingoes!


Annie Ayres was a student at Trent Park from 1966-69