A stalwart of a prominent Tadcaster group which has been in existence for nearly 70 years, is celebrating a milestone of his own.
Peter Atkin has been involved with Tadcaster Theatre Company (formerly known as Tadcaster & District Amateur Operatic Society) for nearly 50 years and will be 80 years young on the June 12.
A familiar face to many local people, on and off the stage, Peter remembers his first show, The Merry Widow in 1966, and looks back with great fondness at a hobby which has been a huge part of his life and all the wonderful people he has met along the way.
After nearly 40 years of treading the boards at the Riley-Smith Hall, Peter has many a story to tell.
“I volunteered to make some spears for a production of Showboat in 1981,” said Peter.
“I made them out of plywood but they were so realistic that during a rehearsal one was thrown and went through the upper lip of the then chairman’s wife.
“She had to be rushed to York District Hospital and imagine the amazement of the medical staff when they discovered how the injury had been caused. I rather think I made them too good.”
Peter also recalls the last night tricks the cast used to play on each other which are now taboo and considered very unprofessional.
“During the production of the King and I in 1977 I had to lift a trunk of clothes off the stage each night,” recalls Peter. “This was usually empty but on the last night the cast put a 56lb cast iron scenery weight in the trunk. I eventually managed to drag it off, much to the hilarity of the stage crew.
“In the 1968 production of Oklahoma the actors got more than they bargained for, when ‘Aunt Ella’ fired a shot to stop the fight between the farmers and the cowmen and a pheasant was dropped onto the stage.
“Ah what wonderful memories I have and I could go on and on,” said Peter, who is the Life President of the Company. His wife Jenny has been at his side throughout all his years at TTC and they both hold Life Memberships.
Peter trod the boards for the last time in 2000, opting for a quieter life off the stage.
He and Jenny provide the refreshments at all rehearsals, which the members consider to be “a very important role” and they also help Front of House at each production.
Tadcaster Theatre Company Chairman Celia Oldroyd paid her own tribute to Peter and Jenny: “Peter has been with our company for so long it would be hard to imagine our society without him!
“He and Jenny totally support everything that we do and they still attend every rehearsal and man the tea bar, raising valuable funds at the same time.
“They help Front of House at every performance and are just the face of Tadcaster Theatre Company. Such commitment is unusual in this day and age.”
Tadcaster Theatre Company members gathered at the Social Club in Tadcaster to launch their next production of Oliver (November 24-28), but took time out to pay their own tribute to Peter on his special occasion. They presented him with Theatre vouchers and a cake.