Richard Cotton is an optician, and the chairman of Dore Gilbert and Sullivan, who will be at the Montgomery Theatre from April 5 to 8 with their new production of The Mikado.
Born in 1951 in Bolsover, Richard’s dad was a railway signalman and his mum worked at the local Co-op. After school, he went to City University London to study Ophthalmic Optics from 1970-73. He then took his professional exams to become a Fellow of the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers and a Freeman of the Company. He returned home and got a job at Midland Opticians in Church Street, Sheffield, where he met his future wife, Yvonne. The couple married in 1975 and have three children. Richard then became manager of Greaves Opticians in Hillsborough for 10 years until moving to Harvey’s Opticians in London Road in 1985. He has been there ever since.
Over 20 years ago I was diagnosed with cancer of the bladder. I’d just finished Camelot with Sheffield Teachers Operatic Society and we’d started rehearsals for State Fair which I had to pull out of. I was seen very quickly at the Urology Dept at the hospital and after six weeks of treatment I was cleared of the condition although I went back for regular checks for the next 15 years. I will always be grateful for the wonderful care I received at the hospital.
I had no theatre experience as a child or at school, although I learned piano. I had a school friend later whose family enjoyed the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan.This was in the late ’60s and they had a stereo radiogram and an LP of G&S choruses - one of my favorites of which was Make Way for the Wise Men from Utopia Ltd, still one of my favourite shows. I got the chance to go with them to see the famous D’Oyly Carte Opera Company production of The Mikado at the Lyceum, sitting in the gods watching John Reed play KoKo. Wonderful! Years later I played on the Lyceum stage in Camelot with Sheffield Teachers Operatic Society.
This has been my practice and place of work since 1985. I have a picture of the building when it was built around 1910. It’s a very Edwardian scene.The shop sold lace garments - very racy - and the shop was called Nottingham House. A copy of the picture has been sent to the Town Hall archives.
Tiffany’s Nightspot on London Road is one of the great Sheffield buildings even though it is now no longer a club but a branch of Sainsburys. I would come with friends on the train from Chesterfield on a Saturday night for an evening at Tiffany’s and get the first train back in the early hours of Sunday morning. And still I managed to get to church for 9.30. The frontage is still there as part of Sainsbury’s supermarket. We also came to the Fiesta nightclub in the 1970s. We had a minibus to come for my 21st birthday. Sadly we didn’t realise that it was Good Friday and the bar closed at 10.30. Back on to the bus and home before midnight.
We came here every Friday night and Sunday morning with the children and this is where I taught them to swim. Its a typical Victorian pool with cubicles round the side. There’s certainly no wave machine or slide or anything like that but you don’t need them. I’ve not been for a long time but my grandson had some swimming coaching there last year so a family tradition continues. I like that.
I think this is a fantastic structure right in the centre of town and something that the city should be very proud of. We at Dore Gilbert and Sullivan Society sang here to promote Merry Widow a couple of years ago. However it looked so much better before they built the hotel next door to it and obscured most of it. Pity they can’t be switched round.
I enjoy shopping! It’s a bit strange I know but I can’t get used to calling this great institution John Lewis, even though its been called that for years now. I first went into this shop when we came on a school trip from grammar school to hear the Faraday Lecture at the City Hall on the opposite side of Barker’s Pool in around 1965. It’s another interesting slice of Sheffield history.