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The Society was formed in 1949 by the then Vicar of St. Giles Church, The Reverend Jack Peel (inset). He approached the St. Giles Players for help providing the cast for the Pantomime ‘Dick Whittington and his Cat’ a script by the Reverend F.G. de Patterson. The Rev. Peel stated in his article in the 1974 Silver Anniversary programme “there were many reasons for starting the Pantomimes, the principle being to draw people of all ages and differing abilities into a ‘Splendid fellowship’ as he called it. It is one of the best clubs you can find. Some people sing, some dance, some play music, but that is not all, you must always remember those who do stage work, stage sound, stage lighting, make costumes, help with make-up, book seats and do the multiple other jobs. There may be a crowd of performers onstage, you can be sure there are just as many behind the scenes”. Everyone enjoys it and the performance week is only the climax of weeks and maybe months of preparation. In the first programme we learnt that the proceeds from the Pantomime were to be used in the Restoration fund. Times haven’t changed much, the Church still requires funds, but the Pantomime Society has progressed tremendously. There are still members of the cast and backstage crew from the first production living in and around Pontefract- Evelyn Gill (Kirkaldy), Janice Bridgett (Thompson) John Gardner and Don Chessman to name just a few. Since the formation of the Society some 50 plus years ago the fundamental aim hasn’t changed. The Society still draws people into the ‘family’ that is the Rev. Peel’s “Splendid fellowship” that brings people of all abilities together, working for the good of the Society, producing live shows to entertain audiences in Pontefract. Anyone who is, or has been a member of the Pantomime Society can be proud that they have contributed to the growth and development of such a successful and popular Society. Long may it flourish and continue in the aims that were set so many years ago, but still hold true to this day.

Included in the Society's early membership was Norman Robbins, well known Playwright and prolific Pantomime writer. Although Norman now resides in Devon he still manages to keep in touch with some of his friends in the Society from time to time. The House that Jack Built marked the first appearance for Norman with the Society and after the following year’s Aladdin he wrote the 1963 and 1964 pantomimes ‘Sing a song of sixpence’ and ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’ before emulating the well known Pantomime character Dick Whittington and departing for London to make his fortune. Since that time he has appeared in more than 30 pantomimes with such well known names as Ken Dodd, Morecambe and Wise, Harry Worth, Roy Hudd, Charlie Chester and Jack Douglas, along with appearing in films and on television in several shows including ‘Open all hours’ and ‘All creatures Great and Small’ to name but two. Norman boasts in excess of 30 pantomimes and plays in Samuael French’s catalogue and four of his eight plays were given their first staging by the then St. Giles Players in the Parish Rooms on Ropergate, Pontefract. His years in Pontefract are not forgotten and the names of many of the local stalwarts remain in his memory to this day, in a recent conversation I had with Norman he tells me that he is still writing plays but is reluctant to continue writing pantomimes as the - politically correct - issue surrounding most productions is making life difficult for Societie’s to finance them. Among Norman’s successes is ‘Slapstick and Sausages’ THE EVOLUTION OF BRITISH PANTOMIME. from pre-Christianity to the present century. Published by Trapdoor publications, RG.

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