An old tradition re-discovered
Longnor Players has emerged as a result of a sequence of happy accidents during the Spring and Summer of 1999. Babes in Longnor Wood was our first offering in what we hope will be a varied millennium programme.
It all began with a "time-travelling" walk hosted by the School and Community group at St. Bartholomew's, Longnor, in May 1999, which was sponsored by the Rural Education and Arts Project (REAP), a locally based charity. That led on to visits to the school by older residents, a series of reminiscence sessions, an end of term concert featuring Old Longnor and a September Wakes exhibition of memories and photos from the past.
Local people produced all kind of photos from their attics and cupboards for the exhibition and it was the chance discovery of one such old photo from Councillor Tom Wood that sowed the ideas for the present production. David Graham of REAP was able to restore the photograph to reveal the full cast of the pantomime Aladdin, staged in Longnor nearly half a century ago...
There was much-heated debate among Longnor folk during the exhibition as they tried to identify some of the local faces. Apparently there was a tradition of amateur dramatics all those years ago. Could we do it again? Lynn Stevenson, among others, believed that we could. She remembered the play-acting sessions she had enjoyed as a girl at Sheffield House. These were run by Alison Lloyd, then a drama student and one of the local doctor's four daughters. . Who better to lead a new pantomime project than the very same Alison Lloyd Gates? She was, by now, since 1993, Director of Centre Stages, Buxton and already highly valued by REAP as a community artist of distinction - notably for her work with Flash Arts. A September meeting was called and, abracadabra, over 30 people - of all ages - turned up, to be presented with a brand new pantomime script, specially written by Alison for Longnor We could scarcely accommodate the numbers! Two weeks later, rehearsals began. A cast of all ages was assembled: jugglers, acrobats, a pantomime dame, Simon the pieman, a villainous sheriff of Nottingham, Robin Hood, Maid Marion and assorted merry men and maids. Tony Beresford agreed to design and paint the scenery. Joyce Sitlitoe, a pianist from Endon was recruited by REAP to direct the music. An army of other helpers - covering costumes, make-up, staging and publicity - was recruited.
It was at this point that a steering group was set up to oversee the pantomime as well as possible future productions. In the following November, the new Longnor Players was formally constituted with Lynn as Chair, Martin Samuels as Secretary and John Duncan as Treasurer. REAP gave Longnor Players a start-up grant, but money has also been raised by sponsorship from local firms and by a series of quiz nights and bingo sessions.
Hey Presto! An Old Tradition is reborn!
On with the motley!