One hundred happy years for the Batley Amateur Thespian Society

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Batley Amateur Thespian Society celebrated 100 years on the stage with a special dinner last weekend, with many old friends turning out.

Though actually set up in December 1913, the group’s first performance – Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe – took place the following year in the early tumult of WWI.

But for society president Margaret Sheard one of the most significant aspects of its history was the changing role of women.

Early on, it was the men who performed while women made arrangements for shows, such as selling tickets.

“Coming out of the Victorian age, women were not classed as having these priveleges,” she said. “Although the society was together, they would not be aloud to mix men and women.”

Despite this, it was the women who kept the show on the road during the rocky years of 1914-1918.

“But in the 1930s and 1940s, the role of women changed quite dramatically,” Margaret said, and both sexes started performing together.

Having joined in 1968, Margaret’s first show with the Thespians was in Ralph Benatzky’s White Horse Inn at the Dewsbury Playhouse Cinema – a 1,000-seater venue.

Performances later moved to Dewsbury Town Hall, and now Batley Town Hall – where their upcoming Bats on Broadway extravaganza will be held.

Margaret met her husband John Sheard, and his son Chris, when they began helping out behind the scenes.

“The people doing that are just as important, or even more important, than the ones on stage,” she said.

Margaret loves to see young people blossom after joining.

“Especially if they are shy, it can help them to get motivated,” she said. “Once you’ve been in a few shows together, there are friendships that seem to last.

“Most people within the group would think they are fortunate to have a gift for singing, acting or dancing, and it’s nice to share that with people. I think the centenary is a wonderful achievement, I am very proud of what we have done over the last 100 years. We have got a wonderful bunch of memories, and would welcome new members.”

Bats on Broadway is performed November 26 to 29, featuring classics from Oaklahoma and South Pacific. For tickets, call 07792 634360.