Knock-about fun and frolics are promised at Ulverston Pantomime Society’s forthcoming production of The Snow Queen – the first event at Ulverston’s Coronation Hall since the much-loved venue came under the management of Westmorland and Furness Council.
The production – the society’s 75th since 1948 (one year was lost to Covid in 2021) – runs from 24 to 27 January, with the audience joining the residents of Pickle Town as they embark on a mission to rescue Hanky from the evil Snow Queen.
The fabulous show is stacked with great gags, fabulous dancing, end-to-end physical comedy, three outstanding baddies and various local talent adding colour to the stage at The Coro, as it is known.
Bob Needham, who plays the Dame and is chairman of the society, said: “Times remain challenging, especially financially, but there is no lack of enthusiasm within the society to progress through the next 75 years from the youngest performer of about six years old to the oldest who is over 60 years their senior.
“The society is pleased and proud to return to The Coro with our 75th production of The Snow Queen. As was in 1948, and the first pantomime, we are delighted to still be performing at the beautiful Coro 75 years later. This fabulous theatre is our spiritual home and we all adore looking out from the stage to a theatre full of laughing children and their parents.”
Mr Needham added: “The society is a real team-based group from the dedicated front-of-house team through the stage manager and backstage crew, as well as the cast, dancers and show director. Elisabeth Greaves is our musical director and Alex Mattinson is our choreographer and publicity lead. The orchestra are local musicians and hired, but are also very much an integral part of society activity. We have a small leadership team of myself as chairman, Sue Little as treasurer and show director and Nicky Diggle as secretary and child protection officer. We all work closely together and support each other. As chairman my role comprises of being both a support to the others in their roles as well as leading on interfacing with The Coro in terms of the society’s needs for the show every year. It is, however, important to underline that we all work together to deliver a successful show and a viable society.”
For more information about the pantomime, go to www.thecoro.co.uk.
Westmorland and Furness Council took over management of the much-loved community, arts and cultural venue on 1 January and reaffirmed its commitment to keeping the venue operating and retaining the current temporary pop-up library offer. Opening hours were extended when Westmorland and Furness Council reopened the Coro on 8 January 2024 in line with the library.
The agreement came after the announcement by The Coro’s previous operators, social enterprise Ulverston Community Enterprises (UCE) and its subsidiary Charitable Incorporated Organisation, Ulverston Coronation Hall (UCH), of their intention to pass responsibility for the day-to-day operation of The Coro back over to the council at the end of 2023.
It’s behind you! – a history of Ulverston Pantomime Society
On 28 February 1948 the local paper to Ulverston reported that “The main feature of social life in Ulverston this week was the successful staging by the British Legion Concert Party of the pantomime Aladdin. The was the party’s first venture into pantomime but they hope to make it and annual event.” And so what is now the Ulverston Pantomime Society was born.
Over the intervening 75 years of life that the society has had, there have been so many people involved it’s almost impossible for this article to do them all justice. Initially, ladies of the British Legion worked tirelessly to produce costumes, drill the dancers and ensure that it all went off without a hitch. One Bridget Turner was there at the beginning in 1948 and some 50 years later was still involved.
This family aspect of the society has been a very visible part of its history. Many of the officers of the society over the years have started their involvement as young dancers or youth principals. Our current director/ treasurer Sue Little, began performing for the society at a very young age as a dancer and has grown through the society initially as principal girl then as comedy girl and now performs character parts as well as directs and is the society treasurer. Even this though is put into the shade by the dynasty that is still involved but began in the early 1950s when the previous director made her dancing debut.
Elaine Parkinson (as she became) eventually became principal boy, a fabulous character actress and director of pantomimes for the society over several decades. Her husband, Jack, was recruited to become stage manager and eventually chairman, her daughter Becky was principal girl and her two sons Daniel and Jamie are still involved today as back stage team, Daniel as stage manager. Becky’s daughters took part and both Daniel and Jamie’s children are involved backstage and front of stage. Jack and Elaine only retired in 2017 after the 70th panto with three generations involved in that show.
This community focus of society life is regularly repeated with husbands, wives, sons and daughters all having an involvement. The society boasts a fabulous front of house team as well as back stage gang, and, fairly unusually, performs with a full orchestra.