THE 2016-2017 Wharfedale Festival of Theatre was a record year for entries to its competitions – ten for Drama (Adults), 1ten for Musicals (Adults), eight for Youth & Schools, and five for Pantomimes (Adults) – making 33 entries in all.

Competition in Musicals (Adults) was particularly keen as entries had more than doubled, and there were additional entries to the Youth & Schools competitions too. This last especially pleased the Festival’s enthusiastic band of organisers, as one of the Festival’s key aims is to encourage the participation of young people in theatre. To have this year the opportunity to recognise with Certificates of Merit or of Outstanding Performance the achievements of 75 performers out of the approximately 600 young people who took part in the eight shows in the Youth & Schools competitions was very warmly welcomed by the assessors.

Though the Festival has “Wharfedale” in its title, in practice throughout its more than 60-year history entries have never been confined strictly to groups from the Wharfedale area. This year entries included a grand opera staged in a hall in Leeds University Students’ Union, a pantomime and a musical staged in a school theatre in Castleford, a musical presented in the beautifully restored Victorian setting of Harrogate Theatre, and a play performed with great ingenuity in the very oddly shaped performance space Upstairs@TheCarriageworks. The eight months of the Festival also included shows imaginatively presented in school halls, village halls, little theatres and arts centres in various parts of rural Yorkshire as well as the conurbations of Leeds and Bradford.

The Wharfedale Festival of Theatre's Awards Evening is modelled on the Hollywood Oscars ceremony and on Saturday, July 8, 200 enthusiastic adults and excited young people gathered at Leeds West Academy to hear who had won the many awards on offer. There they were treated to a sumptuous buffet prepared and served by Aspen catering company washed down by drinks from the bar organised by the Festival’s regular helpers, Pickles Pubs. They viewed static displays and a DVD of production photographs of all the entries, before trophies (engraved by Peter Russell Engraving) and certificates (printed by Wheelden Print Ltd) were presented to the winners.

As well as being prized by the adult participants in the Festival, these winners’ certificates make a great addition to the portfolios of the young people taking part. The future of all theatre, professional and amateur, lies with our young people, and the Wharfedale Festival of Theatre places great emphasis on their achievements. In these days of severe cuts to education budgets and reduced funding for the arts, thankfully many people still realise how much young people can gain by taking part in theatre, and they make sure that opportunities to do this remain available to them. The quality of some of the youth productions that result from their efforts can rival those of the shows entered in the adult sections of the Festival, and this year was no exception.

Leeds Youth Opera’s production of the very challenging sung-through musical Les Miserables (Schools Edition) performed in the main auditorium at The Carriageworks theatre in Leeds would certainly have given shows in the Musicals (Adults) competition a run for their money, with its beautifully staged and acted show evoking unforgettably the state-backed oppression of the poor that led to an uprising by Paris students in 1832. This production won the Cyril Spencer trophy for Best Youth Musical, Best Actor for Alex Schober, Best Stage Presentation for Anita Adams and Dave Peters, Best Musical Director for Tom Newall, and the Peter Russell trophy for Best Director (Youth & Schools) for Anita Adams.

The awards for Youth & Schools, however, did not stop there. Holly Pennington won Best Actress for her portrayal of Dorothy in new entrant Northern Youth Theatre’s production of The Wizard of Oz, an achievement made all the more remarkable for the fact that she had taken over the part only three weeks before the performances when the young actress originally cast had to relinquish the role following a film offer. This production also won the Wharfedale Festival of Theatre trophy for Ambience Front-of-House for their creation in a Pontefract theatre foyer of a Kansas farmyard including live chickens! Leeds West Academy, with their production of The Wiz (the Motown version of The Wizard of Oz), once again lived up to its reputation for high quality dance, with the award of Best Choreography going to Clare Hudders and Amy-Kate Newsome, and the Valerie Jackson award for Youth Dance being won by outstanding acrobatic dancer Kadafi Mulula. In addition, the award to Leeds West Academy of the West Riding Education trophy recognised that all departments in this school take part every year as its major musical productions, giving all its students unrivalled opportunities to learn theatre skills and obtain B.Tech. qualifications. Ilkley Amateur Operatic Society’s Juniors offered a double bill this year – The Jungle Book given by their youngest performers, and Act One of Stephen Sondheim’s testing musical Into The Woods performed by their older members. Amy Brown Carrera was given a Special Festival award for her skilled handling of the Kaa the Python puppet in The Jungle Book. Bingley Arts Centre’s junior section Kaleidoscope performed Salem, a research-based play that tells the terrible story of the witch-trials of 1692 in Massachusetts that led to the hanging of 19 innocent people. This thought-provoking production made a profound impression on all those who saw it, and it won the Malcolm Pinder trophy for Best Play (Youth & Schools), Best Actor for Matthew Perkins, and Best Actress for Lydia Aitken.

This year the Festival also established three new awards for Best Young Performers in an adult production, which resulted in an award for Alfie Coles in Gravitas Entertainment’s production of Brassed Off, an award for Sophia Rose as Baby June in Ilkley Amateur Operatic Society’s production of Gypsy, and an award for Benny Hick for his performance as Beans in Upstagers’ pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk. All three of these young actors performed with great talent, enjoyment and confidence, and if these performances were anything to go by they will without doubt be seen again in future productions entered for the Festival.

Speaking of Pantomimes (Adults), the assessors warmly congratulate youth company and first time Festival entrants Upstagers, who had the courage to enter their production of Jack and the Beanstalk in Pantomimes (Adults). Against older and very experienced opposition their young performers won Best Principal Girl (Emily Brook), Best Pantomime Villain (George Scaife), Best Pantomime Fairy (Bethany Hare), and Best Musical Director (Phil Walsh). Their eagerness to learn from the assessors’ feedback showed great maturity, and they clearly gained much from the experience of performing in what was only their second attempt at producing a pantomime. Kippax Amateur Operatic Society’s production at the Phoenix Theatre, Castleford, of Aladdin netted several well-deserved awards – Best Principal Boy (Laura Jane Siddall), Best Comedy Support (Victoria Goff), and Best Stage Presentation (Steve Bottom). The John Howell Memorial trophy for Best Pantomime Dame was won for the second year in succession by Chris Binns of S.T.A.R.S., who was also named Best Director for S.T.A.R.S.’ unusual village pantomime version of Dick Whittington. A Special Festival award also went to S.T.A.R.S. in recognition of the work they do in introducing considerable numbers of young performers every year to the traditions and skills needed to perform pantomime successfully.The cup for the Best Pantomime, however, went to Yeadon Charities Association for their glitzy and spectacular version of Jack and the Beanstalk, with Christine Braid once again being named Best Choreographer, and Elaine Hardy and Luke Call winning Best Cameo.

In a hotly contested Drama (Adults) competition, Adel Players won the coveted William Whiteley Salver for Best Play with their deeply moving in-the-round production of Arthur Miller’s little known play Broken Glass. This production, telling the story of a Jewish American family whose comfortable life in Brooklyn is shattered by news of the 1938 Nazi atrocities in Germany, won Best Actor for Rob Colbeck, Best Actress for Dianne Newby, and Best Stage Presentation for David Newby. In a complete contrast of style and content, in second place in Drama (Adults) with the Mary Payne Salver came Fulneck Dramatic Society with a revival of the 1960s sex comedy No Sex, Please, We’re British, which saw Dave Robbins win the Dorothy Fenwick trophy for Best Director, and the award of Best Supporting Actor went to Fulneck’s Sam McKay. Third in Drama (Adults) with the Jack Pitts trophy was Leeds Arts Centre with their sensitive interpretation of Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s gentle play about loss and the supernatural The Weir, and a Special Festival award went to Steve Fryatt of Cosmopolitan Players for his meticulous sourcing of specialist props for their production of the John Godber all female play about women’s rugby, Muddy Cows. Best Supporting Actress in Drama (Adults) was awarded to Sandra Chewins for her excellent portrayal of the March family’s motherly housekeeper Hannah in Keighley Playhouse’s impressive production of Little Women. The Telegraph & Argus trophy was awarded to Gravitas Entertainment in recognition of the skill needed to blend the action of their multi-scene touring production of Brassed Off with the brass band music that forms an integral part of the show. Finally, the Trevor Hallett trophy for Technical Excellence was awarded to Yeadon Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society’s production of the thriller Stone Cold Murder, in recognition of the clever lighting effects and realistically choreographed murder sequence in their production of this thriller.

A very high standard indeed was set in the Musicals (Adults), with the way being led in spectacular fashion by Yeadon Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society’s production of Made In Dagenham – a production that became the talk of Yeadon for several weeks after its run. This musical tells the story of the ground-breaking fight in 1968 by the female sewing machinists at Ford’s Dagenham car plant to achieve equal pay and respect in the workplace with their male counterparts, and it achieved standing ovations every night during its run at Yeadon Town Hall. Made In Dagenham was awarded the coveted Wharfedale Festival of Theatre Salver for Best Musical, Best Actress for Jordan Danielle Rhodes (as strike leader Rita O’Grady), Best Supporting Actor for Jonathan Spry (as union convenor Monty Ford), Best Supporting Actress for Heather Coulton (as Barbara Castle MP), Best Stage Presentation for Tanglewood Arts Management, Best Choreographer for Peyton Martin, Best Director for Peyton Martin, and a Special Festival award for the superbly staged ‘publicity launch’ of the Ford Cortina, complete with half a car! Aireborough Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s production of HMS Pinafore was awarded the Yorkshire Post trophy in recognition of the exceptionally high standard of singing by principals and chorus, and Leeds Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s Sarah Case and Matt Stirk as the hilarious theatre-loving gangsters in Kiss Me Kate netted the Trevor Hallet trophy for Best Comedy Performance. The beautiful thimble-shaped new Keighley Playhouse trophy for the Best Costumed Production was awarded to Judith Huntley, Emma Stirk and Joy Suthern of Leeds Gilbert & Sullivan Society for the wonderful costumes for Kiss Me Kate, including of course the costumes for the Shakespearean ‘play within a play’. Guiseley Amateur Operatic Society’s production of The Wizard of Oz won Best Actor for Will Sadler for his performance as Scarecrow, and Best Cameo went to Keighley Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society’s Mark Hutchinson for his sparkling portrayal of Teen Angel in their production of Grease. LIDOS’ production of Company was also a multi-award winner, with Lucy Eyre gaining the Eileen Mogridge trophy for Best Musical Director, the show winning the Ilkley Playhouse trophy for excellent ensemble work, and a Special Festival award being given to cast-member Beth Blondell for her virtuoso performance as the accompanist. Finally, the Innovation trophy was won for the second year running by Leeds University Union Opera Society, for their promotion of opera to new audiences with a re-imagined production of Don Giovanni set in the 1920s.

On a more personal note, the Pat Dyson Spirit of Theatre award went to Vivienne Bate, the longest-serving member of Adel Players, whose amazing 64 years of enthusiasm and commitment to acting, backstage, front of house, and when younger as the society’s Secretary for 17 years, continues to be an inspiration to all Adel Players members.

Finally, the Festival recognised the artistry, skill, knowledge and unfailing commitment to the Wharfedale Festival of Theatre of its retiring Chairman Malcolm Pinder, who now becomes the Festival’s first-ever President. Malcolm was unable to attend the Awards Evening due to continuing ill health and because of this the specially commissioned and engraved Lifetime Achievement Award Rose Bowl will be presented to him at home next week by the Festival’s new Chairman, Ken Stott. Ken sums this up in the following words: “This beautiful cut glass presentation rose bowl, the Festival’s first-ever award of this kind, is given in gratitude for the enormous contribution made by Malcolm Pinder both as an artist and as a person to the amateur theatre in Yorkshire, and as a symbol of the affection and respect in which Malcolm is held by all who know him. Thank you, Malcolm, on behalf of the Wharfedale Festival of Theatre, for everything, and get well soon.”

Entries for the 2017-2018 Wharfedale Festival of Theatre opened on July 9 2017, and Festival Chairman Ken Stott looks forward to another recording-breaking year for the Wharfedale Festival of Theatre. Details and the entry form can be downloaded from the Festival’s website at The competitions are open to full length plays and musicals performed in our area between September 1 2017 and May 1, 2018.


Drama (Adults)

Best Actor Robert Colbeck (Adel Players)

Best Actress Dianne Newby (Adel Players)

Best Supporting Actor Sam McKay(Fulneck Dramatic Society)

Best Supporting Actress Sandra Chewins (Keighley Playhouse)

Best Cameo Marie Isbister (S.T.A.R.S.)

Best Stage Presentation David Newby (Adel Players)

Dorothy Fenwick trophy for Best Director Dave Robbinss (Fulneck Dramatic Society)

William Whiteley Salver for Best Overall Production Broken Glass (Adel Players)

The Mary Payne Salver for Runner-Up No Sex, Please, We’re British (Fulneck Dramatic Society)

Jack Pitts Memorial Trophy for Third Place The Weir (Leeds Arts Centre)

Best Programme Design Beth Duce and Shell Peart for Broken Glass (Adel Players)

The Pat Dyson Spirit of Theatre Trophy Vivienne Bate for 64 years of enthusiastic commitment to Adel Players, to whose members she is an inspiration

Peter Russell trophy for Technical Excellence Yeadon Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society for their production of Stone Cold Murder

Telegraph and Argus trophy Gravitas Entertainment for skilful blending of superb brass band music with story in Brassed Off

Special Festical Award for meticulous sourcing of specialist props Steve Fryatt for Muddy Cows (Cosmopolitan Players)

Lifetime Achievement Award Malcolm Pinder for his artistry, skill, enthusiasm and unfailing commitment to the Wharfedale Festical of Theatre and to amateur theatre in Yorkshire

Musicals (Adults)

Best Actor Will Sadler (Guiseley Amateur Operatic Society)

Best Actress Jordan Danielle Rhodes (Yeadon Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society)

Best Cameo Mark Hutchinson (Keighley Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society)

Best Supporting Actor Jonathan Spry (Yeadon Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society)

Best Supporting Actress Heather Coulton (Yeadon Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society)

Best Stage Presentation Tanglewood Arts Management (Yeadon Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society)

Best Choreographer Peyton Martin (Yeadon Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society)

Innovation trophy for promotion of opera to new audiences in re-imagined production Don Giovanni (Leeds University Union Operatic Society)

Special Festival Award for virtuoso performance as the accompanist Beth Blondell for Company (LIDOS)

Eileen Mogridge trophy for Best Musical Direction Lucy Eyre for Company (LIDOS)

Best Director Peyton Martin

Wharfedale Festical of Theatre Salver for Best Musical Made In Dagenham (Yeadon Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society)

Trevor Hallett trophy for Best Comedy Performance Sarah Case and Matt Stirk for their portrayal of the gangsters in Kiss Me Kate (Leeds Gilbert and Sullivan Society)

Yorkshire Post trophy for exceptional standard of singing by principals and chorus Aireborough Gilbert & Sullivan Society for their production of HMS Pinafore

Best Programme Design

Keighley Playhouse Award for Best Costumed Production Betty Blue Eyes (Kippax Amateur Operatic Society)

Judith Huntley, Emma Stirk and Joy Suthern for Kiss Me Kate (Leeds Gilbert & Sullivan Society)

Special Festival Award for glitzy presentation of scene of the launch of the Ford Cortina Made In Dagenham (Yeadon Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society)


Best Principal Boy Laura Jane Siddall (Kippax AOS)

Best Principal Girl Emily Brook (Upstagers)

The John Howell Memorial trophy for Best Pantomime Dame Chris Binns (S.T.A.R.S.)

Best Pantomime Villain George Scaife(Upstagers)

Best Pantomime Fairy Bethany Hare (Upstagers)

Best Cameo Elaine Hardy and Luke Call (Yeadon Charities Association)

Best Comedy Support Victoria Goff (Kippax Amateur Operatic Society)

Best Stage Presentation Steve Bottom (Kippax Amateur Operatic Society)

Best Choreographer Christine Braids (Yeadon Charities Association)

Special Festival Award for introducing young people to the skills of pantomime S.T.A.R.S.

Best Musical Director Phil Walsh (Upstagers)

Yeadon Charities Association Cup for Best Director of a Pantomime Chris Binns (S.T.A.R.S.)

The Pantomime Cup for Best Pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk (Yeadon Charities Association.)

Best Programme Design Aladdin (Kippax Amateur Operatic Society))

Best Young Performer in an Adult Production (Pantomimes) Benny Hick (Upstagers)

Youth & Schools (Musicals and Drama)

Outstanding Performance Awards Katerina Piperak, Miriam Blackburn, Anne Halliday, Alex Schober, Phil Schweidler, Ewan Whitaker, Toby Womack, Ben Hayes, Theo Tobias (Leeds Youth Opera); Holly Pennington, Ellie Willcock, Mark Atkinson, Michael Firth (Northern Youth Theatre); Elodie Parsons, Tom Wood (Ilkley Amateur Operatic Society Juniors); Matthew Perkins, Ben Pearson, Lydia Aitken, Ruby Stead (Kaleidoscope)

Certificates of Merit Sophie Downham, Josh Brown (Leeds West Academy); Harriet Whitaker-Myers, Alycia Booth, Ayesha Fateh, Aaesha Bashir (Bradford Girls Grammar School); Sophie Talbot, Rosie Mulhearn, Henry Etherington, Alfie Fozzard (Northern Youth Theatre); Millie Fearnley, Kaye Larroza, McKenzie Glennon, Samuel Grant, Caiden Spencer, Beth Edwards, Isabelle Eden (St Bede’s & St Joseph’s Catholic College); Mary Warren, Siena Anderson, Klara McMenamin, Leo McDonell, Josh Beevers, Joey Wilby, Valentino Dale, Landon Crowther, Gabriel Jones, Daniel Burgess, Theo Labbett, Amy Brown Carrera, Louise Cody (Ilkley Amateur Operatic Society Juniors); Isaac Harrison, Oliver Winder, Theo Connolly, Alice Maynard, Elizabeth Jones, Sarah Paler, Molly Ingham (Kaleidoscope)

Best Actor (Youth & Schools Musicals) Alex Schober (Leeds Youth Opera)

Best Actress (Youth & Schools Musicals) Holly Pennington (Northern Youth Theatre)

Best Actor (Youth & Schools Drama) Matthew Perkins (Kaleidoscope)

Best Actress (Youth & Schools Drama) Lydia Aitken (Kaleidoscope)

Best Stage Presentation (Youth & Schools) Anita Adams and Matt Stirk (Leeds Youth Opera)

Festival Special Award for skilled puppetry Amy Brown Carrera (Ilkley Amateur Operatic Society Juniors)

The Valerie Jackson trophy for Youth Dance Kadafi Mulula (Leeds West Academy)

Peter Russell trophy for Best Director (Youth & Schools Anita Adams (Leeds Youth Operal)

Best Musical Director (Youth & Schools Musicals) Tom Newall (Leeds Youth Opera)

Best Programme Design (Youth & Schools) Three-way tie between Kaleidoscope, Leeds West Academy and Leeds Youth Opera

Best Stage Presentation (Youth & Schools) Anita Adams and Dave Peters (Leeds Youth Opera)

Best Choreography (Youth & Schools Musicals) Clare Hudders and Amy-Kate Newsome (Leeds West Academy)

West Riding Education trophy for the involvement every year of the whole school in all aspects of theatre in their annual musical productions Leeds West Academy

Wharfedale Festival of Theatre trophy for Ambience Front-of-House Northern Youth Theatre for creation of Kansas farmyard in theatre foyer for The Wisard of Oz

Malcolm Pinder Salver for Best Play (Youth & Schools Drama) Salem (Kaleidoscope)

Cyril Spencer trophy for Best Musical (Youth & Schools) Les Miserables (Leeds Youth Opera)