BRIDPORT Pantomime Players will be on stage at the Electric Palace from February 4 to 7 with their production of Cinderella.

To celebrate 50 years of pantomime in the town, Amy Wheatley of the Players has shared some memories of what the town was like when the Players first started staging pantos.

She wrote: “What a very different town Bridport was back in the early 1960s.

“There was a railway station in St Andrew’s Road, a bus station in West Bay Road and the taxi rank was in Bucky Doo Square!

“There were three ‘departmental’ shops, Elmes, Braileys and the Co-op and all three used to sell out of knicker elastic, sequins and white ankle socks during pantomime week.”

Back in the 1960s there was no bypass, not a supermarket in sight and West Bay had yet to be discovered.

Amy said: “Whitsun was still the bank holiday weekend in May whilst the August one was at the beginning of the month, not at the end as it is now.

“Petrol cost five shillings a gallon (25p) and a postage stamp four pence (old money).

“Then there were many more pubs in Bridport but closing time was 10pm in the winter, and when the clocks went forward in the summer, so did the closing time – by all of 30 minutes.

“Many homes had neither a telephone nor a car, and letter writing was either by hand or typewritten (with carbon copies).

“Electric typewriters were still a novelty and a good short-hand typist who could spell (no checker) and knew her grammar was in high demand.

“At this time, Bernard Gale had started a dancing school and was staging children’s pantomimes in the Church House.

“This encouraged him to have ‘grown-ups’ in them as well, and so the Bridport Pantomime Players were established and the first two performed in the Church House were a sell-out.

“The big decision then was whether or not to move to The Palace Cinema, whether the move was affordable or too much of a risk. After much discussion, numerous jumble sales, coffee mornings and general fundraising the big step was taken and in January, 1968. Red Riding Hood took to the stage at The Palace and pantomimes were there every year until 1999.

“But during that year The Palace unexpectedly closed its doors, but the Players were determined to carry on with the pantomime.

Bernard and the Players went ahead and for the next seven years the shows were staged on a much smaller stage at The Lyric and these too were very successful.

Sadly Bernard died and The Lyric had to be sold, but much to everyone’s relief Peter Hitchins purchased The Palace and so the pantomimes went back there in 2007 starting with Cinderella.

Amy said: “Throughout all the 50 years of pantomime so many folk have appeared on stage – from the tiny tots, children’s tap and ballet, to the Players themselves.

“There has also been an army of those who have worked back stage, scene painting, props, lighting, sound, costumes, make-up, orchestra, front of house – the list is endless.

“Thanks must be given to the good people of Bridport and the surrounding area who have supported the Players from the beginning by coming to all the pantomimes and being such a good audience, and willingly given any assistance as and when it may have been asked for.”

  • The Players will celebrate their 50th anniversary at the Electric Palace performing Cinderella from February 4-7.