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Picnic at the Petite Prom Goes to the Musicals: Emily Estelle joined by pianist Marina Lieberman and singer Stuart Matthew Price for Much Hadham concert in aid of Isabel Hospice and in honour of the dad who inspired her career

A devoted daughter is bringing together her musical friends for a fundraising concert in memory of the man who inspired her to pursue a career on the stage.

Classically trained singer Emily Estelle and her mother Sue are hosting the concert in aid of Isabel Hospice at the family home in Much Hadham to honour the life of their much-missed father and husband John Wetherall.

The ‘Picnic at the Petite Prom Goes to the Musicals’ event is being held on Friday and Saturday, July 16-17 to help fund the hospice’s specialist care and support for those living with a life-limiting condition in eastern Hertfordshire.

John and Sue Wetherall with their daughter Emily Estelle (47163319)
John and Sue Wetherall with their daughter Emily Estelle (47163319)

Although the hospice was unable to care for John at the very end of his life, he did attend the charity’s Living Well with Isabel hub at the St Barnabas Centre in Thorley earlier on in his illness.

The outreach service offers therapy groups, sessions and courses designed to advise and support people to best cope with the consequences of a life-limiting or terminal diagnosis, whether that is cancer, heart or lung disease, neurological conditions or any other palliative illness.

John, a partner of Sworders for more than 50 years, was a lifelong fan of the stage and screen, and as a younger man had hoped to study at the world-famous Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) and pursue an acting career.

2017 Picnic at the Petite Prom (48319256)
2017 Picnic at the Petite Prom (48319256)

In later life, he performed with local amateur dramatic groups including the Pavilion Players, Much Hadham Drama Group, Little Hadham Panto Group and Water Lane Theatre Company among others.

Sue said: “He wanted to be a professional actor but his father said he must have another profession, so he became a chartered building surveyor. In the end he had the best of both worlds as he acted for pleasure rather than rely on it as a source of income, and hence Emily’s love of music and the stage.”

Emily, a Herts and Essex High School alumna, is an opera graduate from the Royal Northern College of Music who has shared the stage with Andrea Boccelli, Russell Watson and Bravo Amici in a career which has seen her travel the world – most recently in the USA, China and New Zealand – and at some of the UK's most renowned venues, such as Wembley Stadium and the Royal Albert Hall.

She said: “I can remember when I was younger that he and Mum both used to rehearse at home together and I’d go to their shows, sit backstage and think how amazing it was.

2017 Picnic at the Petite Prom (48319254)
2017 Picnic at the Petite Prom (48319254)

“One of the reasons I’m in the industry now is because I fell in love with it back then. I was a member of Little Hadham Panto Group and Dad would help me learn my lines and practise how to deliver them.

“He loved the fact that I performed because he loved it so much himself. He’d come to see me in everything I was in. Even when I was performing in America he and Mum would fly out.”

The concert will be one of Emily’s first performances in front of a live audience since the Covid-19 pandemic cancelled all her other shows.

The 2021 version of Picnic at the Petite Prom
The 2021 version of Picnic at the Petite Prom

She will be performing alongside concert pianist Marina Lieberman and singer and composer Stuart Matthew Price. The programme will feature songs from West End favourites, from Phantom of the Opera to Mamma Mia.

“It’s been a really tough year for the arts so we were desperate to make this happen,” Emily said. “As performers, we really do love our jobs. It’s been so upsetting not to have the work, so it’s very exciting to be back on stage.

2017 Picnic at the Petite Prom (48319258)
2017 Picnic at the Petite Prom (48319258)

“In lots of ways it’s the arts that have got people through this terrible year. Whether that’s been reading, listening to music, painting or just watching something on TV.

“I think everyone needs a bit of fun at the moment – we’re bringing the West End to your doorstep, so we’re hoping it will be a sell-out.”

The Wetherall family have been long-term supporters of Isabel Hospice, even before John was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in 2012. Sue has helped organise dozens of fundraisers over the past 20 years, raising thousands.

She said: “Although John was under the hospice, we couldn't get him released from hospital in time, so he only had one day at home before he died. We had hoped the hospice would be able to take over his care in his final weeks, but unfortunately time ran out and he never got to have the peaceful, dignified ending that everyone deserves.

“The hospice does a fantastic job and I passionately believe everyone deserves as decent a death as possible, with their loved ones around them. That seems particularly poignant this year when so many people have been forced apart. I can’t imagine not being able to hold someone’s hand.”

Sue Wetherall in the garden of her home Redstocks, in Malting Lane, Much Hadham. Pic: Vikki Lince
Sue Wetherall in the garden of her home Redstocks, in Malting Lane, Much Hadham. Pic: Vikki Lince

Emily added: “Every family will go through this at some point in their life. There are so many people who will require that support, the hospice will never not be needed and they have been a huge comfort and support to us.”

John, stepfather to Sue’s three other daughters and grandfather to five, died in August 2018 aged 80.

Emily said: “Losing him has had such a profound effect on all of us. Towards the end, we knew our time with him was short and we tried to make the most of every moment.

“He was such a wonderful man and lived life to the fullest. He achieved a heck of a lot in life, which is why he was such an inspiration to me. He would absolutely love this concert and I know he will be with us in spirit.”

* The concert is being held at Redstocks in Malting Lane, Much Hadham (SG10 6AN). Gates open at 6.30pm and the music will start at 8pm. Tickets are £30 from 01279 843427 or petiteprom@gmail.com. Bring your own picnics, drinks, chairs and rugs.

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