Theatre’s ‘back pages’

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Ray Riches spoke about the history of the Little Theatre, Hebden Bridge, to the Cragg Vale branch of the Yorkshire Countrywomen’s Association.

He explained that in 1905 a Readers of Plays group had begun in the Co-op Halls with a presentation of The Walls Of Jericho. Advertising in programmes helped with expenses.

The Readers then tried using Hebden Bridge Picture Hpouse but it was too large. They then joined the National Little Theatre Group and for a while used the band hut on Calder Holmes Park. They built their own stage in the band room and borrowed 200 chairs from the local school - which then had to go back to the school after the show.

At this time they were getting an audience of around 250 per night. During the war years it was a struggle to keep going.

By 1977 the group moved to the Trades Club but it was a time when audiences, now in the television era, were suffering. In their own nearby premises, 1986 saw someone put a lit firework through the door causing a fire. They managed to save about 25 per cent of their equipoment, and £70,000 was raised to rebuild with help from a local benefactor - and using a nearby canal barge as a “bar”.

Muriel Morgan thanked Ray for his insight into the ongoing life of the Little Theatre, which had brought back lots of memories for members.