After more than 40 years of audience participation, bold make-up and rowdy crowds, an amateur panto group is still at the heart of its community.
The St Andrew’s Pantomime Group, which is run out of the St Andrew’s Community Centre, in Old Lane, Beeston, has been a staple of the area since it was set up to raise money for St Andrew’s Methodist Church by residents in 1970.
Still very much run by the community for the community, the group has raised more than £20,000 for local charities over the past decade – a total the volunteers would like to add to this year with their version of Beauty and the Beast.
Chairman of the group Simon Forster, 51, has been involved for around 30 years after first being introduced to the group by his father-in-law.
Simon, an IT firm director who grew up in Beeston, said: “It’s really a nice little oasis of an event that presents the arts.
“Its longevity is down to the support we get from the community, if we found there was a lack of enthusiasm of people to come and watch us, we would lose our own enthusiasm.”
Around 80 people help put together the pantomimes every year, from young actors aged five to veteran stage hands aged 70 and above.
To this day the group’s performances draw up to 2,000 people over a two week period, so the group can keep donating profits to the neighbouring church and regional charities.
Simon, whose wife, sister and two daughters take part in the shows, added: “It still bites, it still gets harder year on year as people don’t have as much disposable income.
“If we are still doing what we are now in 20 years we would be delighted.”
The collective did its last full dress rehearsal on Sunday (Jan 6) ahead of its performance of the originally scripted Beauty and the Beast at the centre in Old Lane, from January 12 to 26.
Tickets are £5 for adults and £3 for children.
For information visit: www.standrewspantomime.btck.co.uk or call 07946 787569.