LEEDS West Academy with its distinguished history of performing arts teaching was the venue on Saturday for the Wharfedale Festival of Theatre’s annual Awards Evening.

Well over 200 guests enjoyed a buffet before gathering in the 280-seater theatre to learn who had been awarded this year’s West Yorkshire amateur theatre’s equivalent of the Oscars.

The future of all theatre, professional and amateur, lies with young people, and the Wharfedale Festival of Theatre places great emphasis on their achievements. Many were present at the awards evening with their parents and teachers, and the cheers and applause as their names were read out were a joy to hear.

Ilkley-based performing arts school Upstagers’ spectacularly staged pantomime Aladdin was not afraid to take on the competition of adults in the Pantomimes (Adults) competition, and their courage was rewarded with the cup for the Best Pantomime, the award for Best Stage Presentation, and their Musical Director Phil Walsh was joint winner of the award of Best Musical Director with Will Rowson of Yeadon Charities Association’s pantomime Puss in Boots. Upstagers also won Best Principal Boy (Alycia Booth), Best Pantomime Villain (George Scaife), and the John Howell Memorial trophy for Best Dame (Elliot Broadfoot). However, proving that a village community pantomime can win awards too, Lauren Varley was named Best Actress for her performance as Dorothy in Burley Theatre Group’s adaptation of The Wizard of Oz as a pantomime. Similarly, the new Bernard Riley cup for the Best Young Performer in an adult production went to Katy Chalmers of S.T.A.R.S., whose performance as Ellen-a-Dale, the narrator of S.T.A.R.S.’ community pantomime Robin Hood (performed with the members of their junior company STARBURST) was outstanding.

Another young group unafraid of adult competition is Leeds Youth Opera who, instead of entering the Youth & Schools (Musicals and Drama) competition, this year entered Musicals (Adults) with their production of La Boheme, sung entirely in the original Italian. While they did not win the overall competition (the winner of that was Yeadon Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society’s skilful stage adaptation of the film musical Nine to Five), Best Actress was won by their gifted young soprano Jasmine Caine. Director Anita Adams, together with designer the late and sadly missed Dave Peters, had re-imagined the story as taking place in a present-day refugee camp rather than in the artists’ quarter of 19th century Paris and this worked brilliantly, underlining the modern-day relevance of its themes. Leeds University Students’ Union Opera Society was also not afraid to compete against adults, and their staging of The Marriage of Figaro attracted the award of Best Cameo for Abi Baker-Smith.

As can be seen from the above, one of the Festival’s key aims is to encourage the participation of young people in theatre, and to do this the Festival awards Certificates of Outstanding Performance and Certificates of Merit to young people whose performances have been of a high standard. This year 46 Certificates of Outstanding Performance were awarded, and 29 Certificates of Merit, which will make fine additions to the portfolios of the young people involved. Ilkley Amateur Operatic Society’s deeply moving production of the very challenging sung-through musical Les Miserables saw its young performers win Best Actor (Toby Womack), Best Supporting Actress (Katie South), and a Special Chairman’s Award for 11-year-old Barnaby Killan who took over the role of Gavroche from the chorus at five minutes’ notice when Quillan Andre lost his voice and had to miss two of the performances. The Musical Director for this production, Mike Gilroy, was named Best Musical Director (Youth & Schools). Leeds West Academy’s superb production of another very challenging show, Billy Elliot, won Best Actress for Erin Bilborough as Billy’s feisty dance teacher, Best Supporting Actor for Eli Cusworth as Billy’s friend Michael, and Special Chairman’s award for outstanding acting, singing and dancing for Troy Tipple who played the title role of Billy. The Valerie Jackson trophy for Youth Dance was awarded jointly to Troy Tipple and inspirational dancer Kadafi Mulula, who has now won a place at university to study dance.

The winner of Best Musical (Youth & Schools) was performing arts school Stage 84, who presented a superbly staged production of the film musical Sister Act at Yeadon Town Hall in October 2017. This production won Best Director (Craig Winward), Best Stage Presentation, Best Choreography (Rebecca Cook and Sophie Lindley), and the Cyril Spencer trophy for Best Musical (Youth & Schools). Bingley Arts Centre’s junior company Kaleidoscope’s director Sally Edwards and musical director Katy Gaul were given a Special Chairman’s award in recognition of their achievements year on year in adapting novels for the stage. This year it was Brewster’s Millions, and it was awarded the Malcolm Pinder salver for Best Play (Youth & Schools).

The young people did not, however, have it all their own way. In Pantomimes (Adults), Best Choreographer was once again won by Christine Braid (Yeadon Charities Association), and the award of Best Director of a pantomime was won by Bryan Craven of LIDOS for their production of Aladdin. In Musicals (Adults,) Paul Lonsdale of LIDOS was named joint winner of Best Actor for his performance in Rent, together with Chris Moss of Diva Productions’ show Avenue Q. As new entrants Diva Productions achieved considerable success with their exciting staging of puppetry musical Avenue Q, including Best Actor (already referred to), Best Supporting Actor (Danny Smith), Best Supporting Actress for joint winners Hayley Harris and Laura Hancock, and the Innovation trophy for their mastery of puppetry skills. The Peter Russell trophy for Technical Excellence was awarded to Yeadon Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society’s Set Design and Construction team for their wonderful use of lighting and sound in the society’s winning production of Nine to Five, which for the second year running saw director Peyton Martin named Best Director. The Eileen Mogridge trophy for Best Musical Director went to Jonathan Drummond for The Mikado (Leeds Gilbert & Sullivan Society), while Best Choreographer in Musicals (Adults) was awarded to Amy Horton Atkinson for Legally Blonde (Guiseley Amateur Operatic Society). A sad note was struck by the last full production (The Pirates of Penzance) to be staged by Aireborough Gilbert & Sullivan Society after 60 years of performing consistently high quality traditional Gilbert & Sullivan operas, and their achievement was marked by the award of the Yorkshire Post trophy.

In a hotly contested Drama (Adults) competition, Fulneck Dramatic Society won the coveted William Whiteley Salver for Best Play with their oppressively terrifying production of Patrick Hamilton’s thriller Rope. This imaginatively staged production won Best Stage Presentation for Douglas Brennan, Best Supporting Actor for Paul Cullingford, Best Supporting Actress for Angela Lambert, and Best Director for Alacoque Marvin. In 2nd place with the Mary Payne salver was S.T.A.R.S. production of the Peter Gordon comedy The Reunion, and in 3rd place with the Jack Pitts trophy came Ilkley Playhouse on Tour with their moving production of The Visitors, the story of an elderly Dales farming couple whose wife develops dementia. Jan Thomas was named Best Actress for her performance as the wife in this play, while the award of Best Actor went to Andrew Howorth of new entrants Drama Unlimited, whose cleverly staged promenade production of Alan Bennett’s monologue play Talking Heads was performed by them at Bradford Playhouse in September. Ilkley Playhouse on Tour were also awarded the Ilkley Playhouse trophy, in recognition of their work in bringing live theatre to rural communities where live theatre is not normally available, while the Keighley Playhouse trophy for the Best Costumed production was fitting recognition for their own beautifully costumed production of the classic Emily Bronte story Wuthering Heights.

Finally, on a more personal note, the Pat Dyson Spirit of Theatre award went to Douglas Brennan of Fulneck Dramatic Society. For many years Dougie has constructed the sets for their productions at the Comenius Institute in Fulneck, tackling undaunted the challenges of creating imaginative sets in quite a limited acting space, and without exception their directors say they could not achieve what they do without him. That includes building this year’s set for their winning production of the thriller Rope, which director Alacoque Marvin decided to set on a yacht!

Ken Stott, Festival Chairman, informed the audience that in many cases this year the marks that determined who had won what had come down to a matter of decimal points, so high had been the standard of many of the entries. He hoped that the work of the societies, schools and groups entering the Festival would continue to achieve similar standards in future, and reminded those present that entries for the 2018-2019 Festival opened tomorrow – ie Sunday, 8 July!

Entries for the 2018-2019 Wharfedale Festival of Theatre opened on 8 July 2018. The competitions are open to full length plays, musicals and pantomimes performed in our area between 1 September 2018 and 3 May 2019 by adult groups and Youth & Schools. Details and the entry form can be downloaded from the Festival’s website at www.wharfedaletheatrefest.org.uk.


Drama (Adults)

Best Actor

Andrew Howorth (Draka Unlimited)

Best Actress

Jan Thomas (Ilkley Playhouse on Tour)

Best Supporting Actor

Paul Cullingford (Fulneck Dramatic Society)

Best Supporting Actress

Angela Lambert (Fulneck Dramatic Society))

Best Stage Presentation

Douglas Brennan (Fulneck Dramatic Society)

Dorothy Fenwick trophy for Best Director

Alacoque Marvin (Fulneck Dramatic Society)

William Whiteley Salver for Best Play

Rope (Fulneck Dramatic Society)

The Mary Payne Salver for Runner-Up

The Reunion (S.T.A.R.S.)

Jack Pitts Memorial Trophy for Third Place

The Visitors (Ilkley Playhouse on Tour)

Best Programme Design

Wuthering Heights (Keighley Playhouse)

The Pat Dyson Spirit of Theatre Trophy

Douglas Brennan (Fulneck Dramatic Society) for many years of set design and construction

Special Chairman’s award

Chris Holland (Weeton & Huby Players) For the comedy of “the haka moment” in False Pretences

Special Chairman’s award

Innovative promenade staging of Talking Heads (Drama Unlimited)

Special Chairman’s award

Wharfedale Festival of Theatre trophy for Ambience Front of House

Keighley Playhouse trophy for Best Costumed

Neve Carey, for excellent performance in two adult productions for two different societies (Adel Players and Weeton & Huby Players)

False Pretences (Weeton & Huby Players)

Wuthering Heights (Keighley Playhouse)


Ilkley Playhouse trophy

Ilkley Playhouse on Tour, for taking live theatre to rural areas where it is not normally available

Musicals (Adults)

Best Actor

Joint award:

Paul Lonsdale (LIDOS)

Chris Moss (Diva Productions)

Best Actress

Jasmine Caine (Leeds Youth Opera)

Best Cameo

Abi Baker-Smith (Leeds University Students Union Opera Society)

Best Supporting Actor

Danny Smith (Diva Productions)

Best Supporting Actress

Joint award:

Hayley Harris (Diva Productions)

Laura Hancock (Diva Productions)

Best Stage Presentation

Anita Adams and Dave Peters (Leeds Youth Opera)

Best Choreographer

Amy Horton Atkinson (Guiseley Amateur Operatic Society)

Innovation trophy for mastery of puppetry skills

Avenue Q (Diva Productions)

Telegraph and Argus trophy

Teaching whole cast to sing grand opera in the original Italian (Leeds Youth Opera)

Eileen Mogridge trophy for Best Musical Direction

Jonathan Drummond for The Mikado (Leeds Gilbert & Sullivan Society)

Best Director

Peyton Martin (Yeadon Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society) for Nine to Five

Wharfedale Festival of Theatre Salver for Best Musical

Nine to Five (Yeadon Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society)

Trevor Hallett trophy for Best Comedy Performance

Sarah Case for her portrayal of Katisha in a non-traditional production of The Mikado (Leeds Gilbert and Sullivan Society)

Yorkshire Post trophy

Aireborough Gilbert & Sullivan Society for their provision over 60 years of consistently high quality Gilbert & Sullivan productions

Best Programme Design

Peter Russell trophy for Technical Excellence

Avenue Q (Diva Productions)

Nine to Five (Yeadon Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society)


Best Principal Boy

Alycia Booth (Upstagers)

Best Principal Girl

Lauren Varley (Burley Theatre Group)

The John Howell Memorial trophy for Best Pantomime Dame

Elliot Broadfoot (Upstagers)

Best Pantomime Villain

George Scaife (Upstagers)

Best Pantomime Fairy

Candice Whitaker (LIDOS)

Bernard Riley Cup for Best Young Performer

Katy Chalmers (S.T.A.R.S.)

Best Comedy Support

Matthew Tempest (LIDOS)

Best Stage Presentation

Upstagers Stage Construction and Design team for Aladdin (Upstagers)

Best Choreographer

Christine Braid (Yeadon Charities Association)

West Riding Education trophy

For introducing young people to performance in a traditional pantomime (Drama Unlimited)

Best Musical Director

Joint award:

Will Rowson (Yeadon Charities Association)

Phil Walsh (Upstagers)

Yeadon Charities Association Cup for Best Director of a Pantomime

Bryan Craven (LIDOS)

The Pantomime Cup for Best Pantomime

Aladdin (Upstagers)

Best Programme Design

The Wizard of Oz (Burley Theatre Group)

Youth & Schools (Musicals and Drama)

Outstanding Performance Awards

Oscar Hazell, Samuel Dawson, Joseph Egan, Ellie Keenan, Georgia Cox, Mia Dearnley (Stage 84); Eli Cusworth, William Harrison, Troy Tipple, Ashley Hartley, Luke Proud, Kadafi Mulula, Erin Bilborough (Leeds West Academy), Toby Womack, Daniel Burgess, Gabriel Jones, Will Burns, Tom Wood, Barnaby Killan, Quillan Andre, Theo Labbett, Evie Clark, Katie Burns, Faith Martin, Katie South (Ilkley Amateur Operatic Society Junior Company); Jack Swarbrick, Ruby Johnson, Popp Thomason (Northern Youth Theatre Company); Daniel Ibbotson, Caiden Spencer, Mary Mahoney, Lucy Hollerer, Kaye Larroza, Nicole Lee, Hannah Maslen, Jessica McCallion, Amie Anne Brady (St Bede’s & St Joseph’s Catholic College); Theo Connolly, Jacob Campbell-Kealy, Gabe Bowden, Eliot Mawson, Daisy Smith, Lydia Aitken, Genevieve Gaul, Katy McEnhill, Alice Maynard (Kaleidoscope)

Certificates of Merit

Edward Cooke, Freddie Butterfield, Benjamin Jordan, Anne-Marie Slingsby, Sophie Chellan (Stage 84); Ben Reed-Davis (Leeds West Academy); Frankie Bounds, Tom Western, Keiran Constable, Jack Baron, Archie Bradley, Marcus Dodds, Will Fealy, Ben Jordan, Josie Lamb, Phoebe Cumming, Lucy Churchill, Erin Bilborough, Lilian Hughes (Northern Youth Theatre); Nicky Gawth, Lucy Pearson, Millie Fearnley, Jasreel Ducasin, Ella Green, Lily-May Smith (St Bede’s & St Joseph’s Catholic College); Owen Ray, Ted Pedley, Eleanor Maynard (Kaleidoscope)

Best Actor (Youth & Schools)

Toby Womack (Ilkley Amateur Operatic Society Junior Company)

Best Actress (Youth & Schools)

Best Supporting Actor (Youth & Schools)

Best Supporting Actress (Youth & Schools)

Erin Bilborough (Leeds West Academy)

Eli Cusworth (Leeds West Academy)

Katie South (Ilkley Amateur Operatic Society Junior Company)

Best Stage Presentation (Youth & Schools)

Stage 84 Set Design and Built Team for Sister Act

Best Choreography (Youth & Schools)

Rebecca Cook and Sophie Lindley for Sister Act (Stage 84)

The Valerie Jackson trophy for Youth Dance

Kadafi Mulula and Troy Tipple (Leeds West Academy)

Peter Russell trophy for Best Director (Youth & Schools)

Craig Winward (Stage 84l)

Best Musical Director (Youth & Schools)

Mike Gilroy for Les Miserables (Ilkley Amateur Operatic Society Junior Company)

Best Stage Presentation (Youth & Schools)

Set Design and Build team for Sister Act (Stage 84)

Cyril Spencer trophy for Best Musical (Youth & Schools)

Sister Act (Stage 84)

Special Chairman’s award for outstanding acting, singing and dancing in the title role of Billy Elliot

Troy Tipple (Leeds West Academy)

Special Chairman’s award for taking over role of Gavroche at 5 minutes’ notice and performing brilliantly

Barnaby Killan in Les Miserables (Ilkley Amateur Operatic Society Junior Company)

Special Chairman’s award for year on year adapting books for staging as musical plays

Malcolm Pinder Salver for Best Play (Youth & Schools)

Sally Edwards and Katy Gaul (Kaleidoscope)

Brewster’s Millions (Kaleidoscope)

*Photos by David Brett