70 memorable years of top entertainment

St Ambrose Players rehearse their current production of Gaslight, being performed again after 70 years
St Ambrose Players rehearse their current production of Gaslight, being performed again after 70 years
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One of the longest-standing members of Leyland’s St Ambrose Players has looked back at his time with the society in pride – as he prepares to watch the first show in the group’s 70th anniversary year.

George Birkin joined the amateur dramatics group in 1952, and has appeared in more than 150 plays and musicals since then.

Performing in two to three shows a year across six decades, as well as making it to rehearsals twice a week, George looks back at the busy schedule with fondness.

“I worked for a consulting engineers and I was on the road most of time, so it was sometimes difficult to make it to rehearsals,” he recalls.

“But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It’s a nice way to get away from work and become a different person.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Players, and I enjoyed the friendships.

“It was also nice working with young people and seeing them grow up.

“Sometimes they’d go away to university, but they’d come back and do shows with us again, and I loved that.”

Now 89, George still makes it to every show the Players perform at St Ambrose Church, and remembers a few mishaps he faced when he was on the stage.

“All sorts happens in rehearsals,” he says. “Mistakes are made and we had a lot of good fun, but there’s no second chance when you’re on stage.

“You’ve just got to get through it. You would have to ‘ad-lib’. It’s nerve-racking, but it made things interesting.”

His first performance was as the vicar in Murder at the Vicarage, and his last was in Calamity Jane in 2011.

His late wife, Margaret, was also a valued member who helped for more than 50 years backstage and particularly as the ‘Box Office lady’.

And George’s regular stage wife, Kath Creer, is still a member now.

She joined 58 years ago when in her teens, and enjoys working behind the scenes as well as on stage.

“I just like all of it,” she says. “I like playing parts which make people laugh, rather than straight parts, although I’ve done all sorts.

“I help with the costumes now, which is very tiring because there’s so much to do.

“There’s all the lighting and sound we have now too, and our stage designs have always been wonderful – and they’ve won many awards over the years.”

A grandmother-of-two who worked as a nurse, Mrs Creer also organises the memberships, and there are about 40 regular members now, with extra ones attending one show a year rather than all four.

Her mother, Lena Dunderdale, joined the Players when it was first formed in 1944.

The group came together to raise funds to build the church hall on Moss Lane, which is where the Players still meet and perform their shows.

The group welcomed a special guest to rehearsals recently, Rose Hornby (nee Butterworth), who was in the 1944 production of Gaslight.

The Players are set to stage Gaslight from this Wednesday, February 19, to Saturday, February 22.

Call 07432 432586 or visit www.stambroseplayers.co.uk for tickets and details.