All attending the Forum’s second “Open Meeting” of the season were welcomed by Chairman Roger Bancroft including the Speaker’s husband and a member of Harrogate Theatre’s staff together with a number of member’s ladies. Five apologies were given.
News of two members gave some concern with Honorary Life Member Reg Jackson now in Borage House Care Home Ripon and Alan Norton following his fall is in Belmont Care Home Starbeck and awaiting an operation—the Forum sends best wishes to both.
A letter of thanks from Jennyruth’s Workshops for the £170 charitable donation raised at the Christmas lunch had been received.
Mrs Anne Cherry was today’s speaker with her topic being “Harrogate Theatre–Behind the Scenes”. This proved to be an extremely entertaining and informative talk on one of Harrogate’s local treasures and was backed up with some splendid slides and photographs. The theatre opened in January 1900 as Harrogate Grand Opera House with its first performance on January 11th raising money for the Boer War Fund tickets being priced from 10 shillings down to 2 shillings and 6 pence! The Managing Director from inception until the early 1930’s was William Peacock and many famous names from the theatre world trod the Harrogate boards. In 1932 and not for the last time financial pressures saw a threat to turn the theatre into a cinema but the reins were taken over by his highly capable wife and daughter Mrs Peacock and Marie Blanche who together took the theatre forward with the introduction of the White Rose repertory players and weekly plays up until the mid 1950’s. Notable assistance during this time with regard to scenic art for productions came from Oliver Richardson. Other noteworthy personalities linked with Harrogate Theatre were Trevor Howard and Sonia Dresdel, the latter succeeding to the post of Artistic Director. However various closures over the years threatened the theatre’s future but efforts by local businessmen Raymond Sandover and Robert Smethurst then the Local Council and the Theatre Trust have seen it come through various funding crisis’s, closures and refurbishment programmes including up to the present day. The current state of play is healthy with a varied and well supported main theatre programme, the Studio theatre in regular use and support from local business sponsors. We were also entertained by tales of the theatre’s ghost “Alice “. Some lively comments and questions were raised at the end of the talk.
The Vote of Thanks was given by His Honour Judge Derek Clarkson and there were 33 member attendees alongside the guests.
NEIL RAMSHAW SECRETARY