A VERY special member of Ilkley Playhouse returned to the stage this week to be welcomed home for a splendid evening of anecdotes, insights and laughter. 
Playhouse Patron Alan Titchmarsh spoke to a full house for 45 minutes, bringing his relaxed and warm manner to the good folk of Ilkley, some of whom remember him from school. There were even one or two who trod the Playhouse boards with him back in the 60s!
Alan mingled during the interval then returned to the stage for audience questions, chaired by Marcia Nattress. He was posed a wide variety of questions, some more serious than others, leading to laughs as well as insights for the attendees.
Gardening was a recurring theme. Alan spoke about his grandpa instilling in him an interest in growing things, and also mentioned a teacher, Harry Rhodes at the then Ilkley Middle School on Valley Drive. Harry was passionate about growing cacti, and gave Alan a little one which he nurtured it until it flowered. At 16, Alan’s father helped him find a job with the Parks Department of Ilkley Urban District Council. Alan said when he first started work he was only four feet eight inches tall but after a year working in the green houses in the warmth and under the glass he had grown to five feet six!
Alan had a word of encouragement for a young man, Matt, in the audience who is starting a career in horticulture. Alan said that while he would have to put up with the privations of working in winter rain and cold, sunnier days made the effort worthwhile.
Alan gave a masterly description of the structure of a tulip flower, covering the various structures of the plant. As he finished the description you could hear a pin drop in the theatre and there was a second of silence broken by spontaneous applause: a wonderful moment.
After the event Alan stayed to sign books: The Grove Bookshop were on hand if anyone needed a copy of one of his books. Finally, Ilkley Playhouse presented him with a goody-bag from… where else… Betty’s!