Sixty Years And Still Going Strong!

Amateur dramatics society, The Hall Players celebrate 60 years of show business

Back in November 1961 the fledgling amateur dramatics society The Hall Players staged their first production in the newly constructed St John the Baptist Church Hall on Broadway, Fulwood, Preston.

The hall, incidentally, was built by the efforts and fund raising of many people and organisations within the Parish in which The Hall Players played a leading role.

The comedy, which was billed to run for three nights, was ‘A Quiet Weekend’ in three acts and was penned by playwright Esther McCracken. It was produced by one of the group’s founding members, school master John Shaw. The cast of 13 included several of The Hall Players’ founding members namely Myra Woods, Joyce Sunderland, Rita Ashwell, Stephen Dandy, Doris Benson and Jack Dempsey.

This enthusiastic band of burgeoning thespians became the backbone of the group which was to become a thriving and hugely popular provider of amateur theatre that over many years entertained audiences from Fulwood and beyond with a wide variety of dramas, thrillers, hugely popular comedies and of course the sell-out pantomimes to rival any to be staged in the North-West.

Live theatre in Fulwood was enjoyed by countless thousands of people for almost 57 years until the shock announcement that the beloved Parish Hall, which also had a popular social club and a well-used bowling green, was to close. In its place was to be built a much smaller St Martin’s Chapel and houses on the rest of the site.

The shock news was a hammer blow to The Hall Players and all the other organisations that called the Parish Hall ‘home’. Becoming ‘homeless’ was a major problem for The Hall Players, could this be the end of the road?

Undaunted, the hard-working committee, under the guidance of Chairman Carol Buckley, approached the Playhouse on Market Street in the centre of Preston, whose management were delighted to offer the premises so that the Hall Players could stage three performances a year. New home solved? Then came Covid-19, which stopped everyone in their tracks. The pandemic brought all live performances to a halt for eighteen months.

Phoenix-like, The Hall Players rose from the ashes once again and put on the production ‘Time of My Life’ in October 2021 just in time for their 60th anniversary. Now they are in rehersals for ‘Don’t You Want Me’ in late January and ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’ in late April.

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Tedd Walmsley

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