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The following eulogy was read by Alex Marker at Jennie's funeral in September 2018

Jennie Yates has, over the years, made an immeasurable contribution to The Questors Theatre in terms of her craft and skill as a costume designer (although she'd be the first to say 'I can't do costume drawings'), as a costume maker and as head of the Wardrobe Department.

Affectionately known as Uber Fuhrer by her fellow wardrobe compatriots, for wardrobe, tucked round the back of theatre, functions a little like a semi-autonomous state. It was here that Jennie was usually to be found, always with offer of tea, biscuits, an 'ear' and friendly advice. "Is Jennie here?" was a call often to be heard echoing up the back stage corridor, not because anyone necessarily wanted anything, but to see if Jennie was there to chat to.

A great raconteur she would regale you with tales of Don, Peter, David, Auntie Gwen and her younger life with her mum and dad. These tales were legend and these individuals clearly the most important people in her life.

I had worked with Jennie several times before I first really got to know her when we designed set and costume for the Claremont High School productions which used to be staged at Questors. I, newly qualified, used to drive her to production meetings in Kenton and as we travelled we would swap driving tips, as she had also started to take lessons and she would tell me stories about visiting Jazz clubs back in the 1960s.

Time and time again Jennie stepped forward to costume the shows that nobody else would touch. For instance: when we staged Emil and the Detectives a couple of years ago the decision was taken to try and assemble the largest number of Questors Youth children on stage ever! It was only after the show was cast I discovered that nobody had passed the final figure on to Jennie. I think everyone was a bit afraid. One morning, I chanced upon her in a corridor and decided to come clean.

"Ah Jennie, About the cast for Emil...",
"Yes, it seems to have gone terribly quiet, I haven't heard anything",
"So... you haven't been told how many are in the cast???",
"More than last year?",
"Er, yeah",
"How many",
"Sixty two".
This was followed by a brief pause and her famous deadpan "Really".

There was only one thing she said she would never do. "I don't make Animals!", so it was with a slightly sinking feeling that I had to approach her the following year and tell her we were going to stage Animal Farm.

One of her worst production nightmares was the director whose opening gambit was, "I don't think we want to set this production in any specific period". She would very patiently explain that even if staging a work non-period, you had to have a basic cut or style, otherwise it will look as if the cast had just raided the dressing up box. Directors soon learnt that when she suggested something it was probably best to take her advice.

Richard Gallagher recalled:
"When I first worked with her, on Entertaining Strangers, we had a cast of about a hundred characters, played by thirteen actors. It was set in Victorian Dorset and — naively — I suggested it could all be done with a base costume and a 'suggestion': 'It'll be very easy.'
Jennie said, 'That's not going to work.'
I insisted it would: hats, a change of waistcoat... would suffice as we were not doing anything realistic. When it came to the first dress, I looked at all this and said,
'A tailcoat doesn't look quite right without a tie, does it?' She agreed but became a bit edgy when, by degrees, I asked for the whole thing (which, of course, she knew in the first place I was going to do.).
'Richard,' she said, 'This is starting to look a bit like a show, isn't it?'.

"On the same production, I had an actor with dreadlocks — quite anachronistic for Victorian Dorset. After a few weeks she said, 'I've just worked out what to do with the dreadlocks.' I was delighted — thinking we'd got a clever wig or something. Her suggestion — which we absolutely agreed to — was 'We will ignore them.'"

Jennie had a particularly keen eye for the absurdities of any situation and an ability to convert it into a funny, if slightly indiscrete, story — Perhaps influenced by her previous career working for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. On one occasion she had to make a Father Christmas costume for a particularly rotund actor, a challenge that involved scaling up the costume way beyond the outer reaches of the pattern, and requiring a vast quantity of wine velour fabric. Owing to the time of year such fabric was in great demand and she was particularly pleased when she found a whole roll. The lady in the shop said "You're doing Father Christmas aren't you?", Jennie replied affirmative and then the woman said "How many?"

So often the costume designer is left at the mercy of the director's casting. Richard again
"Then she did Habeas Corpus in which I, as a gay man, had to cast a flat-chested spinster and a voluptuous siren. Despite their evident talents, I'd cast a well-endowed lady as the spinster and a lovely, but less endowed lady as the siren. Jenny asked me what she was supposed to do and I said, 'Bind one up and pump the other one out.' Jenny looked at me, took a draw on her cigarette and said,
'Richard, you don't really understand breasts, do you?'

Popular perception has it that actresses can be notoriously tricky about their measurements ('I'll have dropped a size by opening night'); well, let me tell you, the boys are often much worse. When cast and measured for a Victorian epic, they are absolutely appalled when confronted with their 42" waist measurement! They know full well that their wife, or partner, buys them 34" waist jeans... which they wear under the bulge. I once saw Jennie placate a skittish luvvie with: 'Yes, but that's your period waist'. This is a phrase I have adopted and successfully used since, and will continue to use over the rest of my career.

When dealing with nervous performers tact and diplomacy are essential and Jennie possessed both of
these qualities. This is one example of the many small ways through her tips, guidance and tales that Jennie has influenced and touched everyone in this room. Jennie would also fight the corner of the wardrobe volunteers if they got into difficulty and it has been said that: "in Wardrobe we felt more respected by other Questors members because of Jennie."

Jennie was a familiar and popular figure in the Questors office, with whom she had regular contact; principally owning to the hugely successful costume hire operation that she ran; but, also when investigating one of the many intriguing wardrobe 'donations' left by a well meaning, if slightly deluded, member of the public. As Ian Briggs commented "She was ever so cheery, and also very helpful with short lengths of knicker elastic".

Jennie Yates: missed by many, admired by all. A bedrock of calm practicality in a crisis with a dry, mischievous, sense of humour. We have been honoured to know you.

Alex Marker