Stretford Children’s Theatre was founded in April 1945 by Bertram H Holland and 6 others. It was originally based in a house opposite Old Trafford railway station and was financed by the Board including Bertram H Holland and his wife, Joyce. In March 1949 The Civic Theatre (later Stretford Public Hall) was officially opened, where Stretford Children’s Theatre presented Dick Whittington, with the Mayor and councillors in the audience.
In 1968, Bertram H Holland published a book – Beginners on Stage – which told the story of Stretford Children’s Theatre.
The group ceased to exist in the early 1980’s but was re-formed by a group of local people (including current Board members) in 2015 and is based at Stretford Public Hall.
Notable former members include: Lynn Roden, John Comer, Vicky Ogden, John Mahoney, June Ritchie, Brian Trueman, Ian McShane and Edna Savage.
See the link for an interesting article from Manchester Evening News which mentioned John Mahoney's connection to Stretford Children's Theatre: https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/nostalgia/15-marvel-netflix-hollywood-stars-22660243
PAST PERFORMANCES MEMORABILIA
PAST MEMBERS MEMORIES
I had just received my call up papers for National Service so l had to resign my part of Tommy Keeler in Annie Get Your Gun with Urmston Operatic.
Cycling home from work at Shell Carrington l was caught up by Frank Ratcliffe, a senior member of SCT and accomplished guitar player.
" Do you know anyone who could sing Nanki Poo, its urgent"!
I had been in The Mikado twice with All Saints Operatic so knew the op by heart, songs and dialogue. All the singers l knew were all in production at that time. Frank said "couldnt you do it"? I told him about my call up and said l would gladly help out but for that.
Thomas Roberts, Annie Get Your Gun
The following day he called into my workplace and told me l had got the part and before l could say anything else he said that Mabel Bagley the assistant director was the Mayoress of Trafford and was fixing a months extention for me so l could do the show.
There was only three weeks to go and l jumped in with both feet to rehearse with the rest of the cast. I only saw Berty Holland once before the dress rehearsal at the STH. Rehearsals were mainly taken by Ms Bagley and Mrs Wildern (Tom Wilderns wife) and the repetiteur.
No principals attended the first three rehearsals and l first met them on the Sunday before the show when we all tripped off to Marple for a days relaxation. Most of them had been in an earlier production but l enjoyed working with the very enthusiastic chorus.
Dress rehearsal worked very well and although there was a flu epidemic around which grounded some of the cast, opening night went very well with no hitches. Something l had not experienced with other groups.
I am not a tenor so Nanki needed extra effort on my part. The other principals were a very friendly talented lot and my fondest show memory was performing with them. One of the hikers on that day out to Marple was June Ritchie whos younger sister you will note was in the chorus. I was apprenticed to her uncle John at Shell. One of the juniors was a Francis Doubleday who l thought was quite exceptional and hope she continued with that interest.
Mr Holland, i believe, had already lost interest in the group because he no longer had the support of local talent. All the principals were exceptional in their parts and l never once had to worry about their support.
Former members not included in your Hall of Fame are, pop singer Edna Savage and Lovejoy.
I turned pro with a former teaching colleague of M Holland Trevor Beeston and his wife Jackie doing clubs and theatres around the country.
I later became a solo performer doing vocals and comedy and compering shows in theatres and clubs.
Following three seasons on Blackpool's Central Pier plus running the Peter Webster children's show in the daytime l moved to Skegness and Whitstable before emigrating to Australia appearing in light operas, TV commercials, children's programmes and movies.
Just wondered. Is the Essoldo cinema still there? The last show l did before The Mikado was Zip Goes a Million with Urmston 0peratic Soc. It was the only time in its history that it was used for live show.
I was a trained dancer and played the juvenile lead opposite choreographer, Sheila Payant.
Strange l should cross the road to do your Mikado!
I was “enrolled “ by Dutchy Holland who was my geography teacher at that time. I don’t think I’ve got anything else because decent cameras were few and far between in those days.
I have posted a reminiscence on the Stretford web page of when we were painting scenery for this show that the radio programme “Down your Way” came and interviewed a few of us. I remember that the broadcast was quite amusing for my family and friends because after I’d been waxing lyrical about the Group, as though I was a founder member, I was then asked how long I’d been a member. The answer “two weeks” was a bit unexpected !
I know the episode was broadcast but have never been able to locate it.
Several other members were close friends - Frank Ratcliffe and I cycled all over Britain together; Neville Jackson and Frank Beswick were slightly older but all four of us were choristers at St. Brides in Old Trafford where Nevilles father was the Lay Reader.
Good luck for the future ! I’ll keep a watch on the website.