Pateley Bridge Dramatic Society celebrates 75 years

The cast of The Heiress in 1961 with Joyce Swires seated centre stage. (s)
The cast of The Heiress in 1961 with Joyce Swires seated centre stage. (s)

Members of Pateley Bridge Dramatic Society have gathered to celebrate their organisation’s 75th birthday.

The theatre lovers held a special reception on Saturday, September 1 at Pateley Bridge Playhouse with around 85 guests, including founding members of the Dramatic Society and the Mayor of Pateley Bridge Coun Ian Skaife.

Guests of honour included Joyce Swires and Joyce Hawkesworth, both 90, who have been members of the society since its beginning in 1937, and 98-year-old Jack Burgess, who joined in 1957 and played a big part moving the group into its own theatre in Pateley Bridge’s former Salvation Army hall.

Joyce Swires and Joyce Hawkesworth were both junior members of the club before it was officially formed. Plays were put on by an evening class for adults run by a Mr Jones, while junior members rehearsed in the parish hall at St Cuthbert’s Church under the watchful eye of Mrs Jeffries.

Both ladies and Mr Burgess wrote about their memories of the society’s past and friends read the recollections out at the party.

Joyce Swires, who served as treasurer for 20 years, remembered plays interrupted by missing props, and Joyce Hawkesworth recalled her part in the society’s first performance of “When We Are Married”, a show that proved so popular the group have performed it three times in total.

Mr Burgess was a member of Summerbridge Players before he married and moved to Pateley Bridge in 1957.

He directed 44 performances with the Pateley Bridge group, beginning when then Secretary Dick Watson asked me to read a small part in Hobson’s Choice, he said. He went to the first rehearsal in the Crown Yard rehearsal room and at the end asked “Who’s going to produce this?”. “You are!” was the reply from everyone else, he said.

When Mr Burgess first joined the society plays were put on in the cinema, which they had use of on Mondays and Tuesdays, the quietest night for films.

But after reading in Amateur Stage magazine about another group converting a chapel into a theatre, Mr Burgess started thinking about finding a permanent home for the Pateley Bridge group, he said.

He immediately thought of the town’s Salvation Army hall, and a year later the Dramatic Society bought the hall for £125, less than the demolition value of the stone.

The society’s members worked for many years to convert the hall into a theatre, doing a lot of the labouring themselves, transforming the hall into the current Playhouse theatre.

Mr Burgess said: “I made lots of friends through my involvement, too many to mention. Many are no longer with us, but their contribution was enormous. Teamwork has always been one of the society’s strengths. Although there were trials and tribulations, my over-riding memories are all happy ones.”

The Society’s current president, Joyce Leggins, also spoke at the celebration and remembered some of past members, including Marguerite MacLellan, a popular member who died a year ago. Marguerite’s granddaughter Mia, 13, took her first role in the society’s pantomime earlier this year.