Onwards and Upwards

A hands-on DIY approach was very marked during the early years. For economic reasons the Society constructed its own scenery. Luckily it was a case of many hands making light work. Each year the base paint for this scenery had to be applied prior to the artistic work which was carried out by more artistically talented members. Members and their families undertook this base painting work on a Saturday afternoon at the farm in Farsley where the scenery was stored. Armed with their brushes and rollers a big job was soon completed, usually in good weather, but always in a farmyard ‘atmosphere’. Well-earned refreshments always followed this event. Now infrequently used, the scenery has had many ‘homes’ during its life from the farm to a psychiatric hospital and the gatehouse to a cemetery. When the first Mikado was produced in 1959 all the fans were made by members who vividly remember fans in various stages of construction and decoration strung across their kitchens for drying.

Improvements have come along with the progress of time making a marked contribution to the productions. The stage lighting at the Town Hall has greatly improved over the years contributing to the visual and atmospheric impact of the shows. Make-up also comes into this category with the availability of new and improved cosmetics. Technological advances allow the use of personal microphones on stage and sound equipment, unheard of in the early days of the Society. There has been only one exception to the Society’s use of Yeadon Town Hall as its venue, and that was in 1999 when it was found that the electrical wiring at the Town Hall needed to be replaced. The production of “Princess Ida” had, therefore, to be staged at Pudsey Civic Centre with all the hectic relocation and production problems. The opera was special in another way as the principal part of Princess Ida was sung by Jean Hindmarsh, who was for many years a principal singer with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company.

In all our 245 evening performances the Society has only once failed to give a performance. That was in 1991 when, due to an exceptionally heavy snowfall, both cast and audience were prevented from reaching the theatre. Perhaps this lapse will be offset this year by the addition of a matinee performance on Saturday afternoon… a first for the Society. As well as rehearsing for forthcoming productions the Society has been invited to give concerts by various organisations, in most cases fund raising for charitable causes. Venues have varied from Leeds Civic Hall to Harry Ramsden’s and many others. These concerts have both helped to widen and enhance the reputation of the Society and in some cases have added to the Society’s funds. In recent years the Society has been invited to give a concert version of their current production at Helmsley. This has proved to be a very popular occasion for both cast and audience.