Where it all began
A brief history by Mary Anne Pitt, a founder member of the group.
- We formed under Tony Boardman in 1980 and did variety shows and lots of ‘singing’ in church and to entertain W.I’s and old folk under the name of The Westwell Warblers
- Our first panto “Robinson Crusoe” starring yours truly as Robinson in 1984.
- The stage moved from one end of the hall to the other, lots of advantages.
- Kip designed trolleys to hold tables, boxes to enlarge the stage, Cole room and porch and then later the disabled toilet.
- Shows included The Boyfriend, The Signs Of The Zodiac, Continental Capers, The Wild West Show and in September 1987 we performed The Garden Party.
- In ‘88 we did Richard Wellington and His Cat With No Boots, followed by “Half In Earnest” a musical adaptation of the “Importance of Being Earnest” in 1990.
- We found Audrey and Richard Baulch by then because we were in fear of closing when Tony Boardman moved away, swiftly followed by Alan and Mary Hoath. However, Richard was an amazing pianist and Audrey an excellent producer, and they saved the day going on to produce “Half a Sixpence”but before that we did “Water of Life” with the solo by Neil Cackett (current chairman) – no less! Also a Victorian evening with Hazel as the Piano.
We certainly kept going in those days I am amazed when I look back and see what we did.
I’m going to tell you a little bit about how the stage came to be moved from the kitchen end of the hall to the opposite end where it is now firmly settled. In October 1981. Christopher Pitt or Kip as he is usually called, had the vision and drew up the plans for a larger stage with a small space behind for storing scenery and for the cast to change in. previously the only backstage was the kitchen itself and there was only one entrance – through the kitchen, Kip’s plan was submitted to Ashford Borough Council and eventually passed. Early in 1982, Kip headed a small team of three, which included Geoff Richards and Ted Westhead, and these three brave fellows set about dismantling the old and building the new. With no professional help they constructed a strong stage introduced with Special trolleys underneath for storing the hall tables and chairs when not in use. These kip welded himself in ‘time off’ from his day job working as manager of Headley Brothers. It was a very dusty job and a tremendous task for three gentlemen who are not builders to undertake. Kip still shakes to this day when any very energetic group or dancing or jumping on his stage. As he said, I am the only one left who knows what went into the building of ‘his’ stage and i am constantly relieved when it stands up to whatever the players throw at it!
Much later, in 1986/7 he also masterminded the long pathway and the Cole Room,but for the first few years we as Players were very cramped for space to change and our first pantomime saw two horseboxes outside the hall with all children involved changing in one and the ‘stars’ and other adults involved in the other. This first big production was ‘Robinson Crusoe’ and was staged in May rather than our usual slot for panto which is in winter of course, and would have made the trip from horsebox to hall a very cold affair!