Examiner Community Awards: Arts awards

Today we enter the second week in our countdown to next Monday's Examiner Community Awards.

HE’S the driving force behind a theatre group who have ploughed £100,000 back into their local community over the years.

Peter Armitage and the Avalanche Dodgers pack the hall at Marsden every year with fans of their popular all-male pantomimes.

Marsden local Peter – whose son is the famous poet Simon Armitage – pens the plays every year while on holiday in Majorca.

The 76-year-old told the Examiner he was “bemused” he had been nominated for an arts award.

He said: “I haven’t done anything I haven’t enjoyed – I’ve done quite a bit of work for charity but I like doing it.”

The Avalanche Dodgers have raised around £100,000 since their first panto in 1978 – all the money goes to local projects in Marsden village.

Peter has also organised events to raise money for the Laura Crane Trust and Kirkwood Hospice, and he also comperes the Marsden Jazz Festival.

He said: “We were just a group of lads from the choir and the operatic society and we formed in the 1970s.

“It all came about by accident. One lad said he’d better go home or else there would be an avalanche and we said you’d better dodge that. And so we became the Avalanche Dodgers.”

The Dodgers have also performed for the British Legion and done private shows to cheer up two seriously ill local children.

Peter said: “We’re vaguely the same group of lads we’ve had since 1976.

“But we’ve got some newer members now who are in their 30s.

“I’ve had some in their 80s ringing up to ask if they can join but I’ve had to say ‘no’ – we need a bit of energy on stage.”

Peter has worked with musical and theatre societies across West Yorkshire as actor and director.

He has appeared at the LBT countless times and was in its opening night show.

He is closely connected with Marsden Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society – a connection rooted in the Armitage family.

Several family members have performed in the society and he has written and directed shows for them.

He has compered charity concerts across the county and renowned for his wicked sense of humour and his interest in encouraging young performers.

TALENTED dancers have been rocking out against drugs and crime.

Newsome High School and Sports College’s Rock Challenge Team is delighted to be shortlisted for an arts award.

Their team has taken part in the international Rock Challenge initiative over the past three years.

This was set up give students a clear insight into the world of theatre and dance while turning them away from drugs and crime.

And last year the group saw success when they came third in the regional finals.

Sarah Brook, the school’s dance teacher who leads the team, said: “I’m so proud of them – I’m always proud of them but they have achieved so much and I’m excited for them that the whole team has been acknowledged in this way through the nomination.

“The whole ethos of the Rock Challenge is that any child involved gets a natural high from it and avoids using drugs and alcohol.

“If any member of the team is caught using any of these substances they will be disqualified from the competition.”

The team is made up of 60 performers, 12 backstage crew, two lighting crew, one media officer and four in the make-up and costume departments.

The children are aged from 11 to 16.

Wendy Jackson, PA at the school, said: “Rock Challenge forges strong bonds and relationships between staff and peers whilst giving a clear insight and understanding of the world of theatre.

“Preparing for the Rock Challenge is no easy feat and the huge magnitude of the work is unimaginable.

“It takes commitment from the whole school bringing together students from across the school who learn to work together using the skilled learned from dance, art, music, technology and IT lessons but within a completely different project.

“The students and staff deserve recognition for their contribution to the project which, without them, wouldn’t happen.

“They work extremely hard putting in hours of preparation for rehearsals, planning the theme, discussing ideas and creating innovative ideas.

“They produce the choreography and the music, plan the stage craft, build and paint the set, create the media and lighting and design and make their own costumes.

“They are inspirational and held in awe by their peers and they are fine role models for others enlightened by their passion to perform and dance.

“They are ambassadors for the school and local community.”

IT’S the Huddersfield Thespians’ 90th anniversary year and the theatre group is still going strong thanks to the commitment of its many members.

Huddersfield Thespians president Steve Marsden told the Examiner it is “brilliant” they have been recognised as a collective with an Arts award nomination.

The 44-year-old from Lindley said: “I think it’s really good that local interests are being recognised.

“There are a lot of people within this group who have put in a lot of hard work over the years.

“Having recognition from outside the group feels really good for us.”

The Huddersfield Thespians is an amateur dramatics company which puts on five plays at the Lawrence Batley Theatre each year.

Their members are aged from 16 to 60 and come from all over Kirklees to produce plays written by playwrights ranging from Terry Pratchett, Charles Dickens and Alan Ayckbourn.

The group’s secretary, Sue Underwood, said: “We are committed to bringing live performance from the community to the community, to entertain, amuse, excite and challenge.

“And we are proud to be a part of a thriving volunteer arts scene that has been part of Huddersfield life for many years.”

Mr Marsden, a local businessman, has been a member of the theatre group for 28 years.

He said they are staffed entirely by volunteers and rely on membership fees, box office takings and one-off donations to keep the group running.

He said: “The enthusiasm, talent and commitment of our members is amazing.

“People work in a variety of roles from building sets to preparing props, creating costumes, working as stage managers, acting, directing, creating and maintaining our website and attracting publicity for our shows.

“We are trying to get more people to join us. Lots of people want to act but not many people want to do roles that don’t have the limelight like backstage.

“When the stage staff Michael Schofield and Stephen Hague have decided they’ve had enough we’re going to struggle to get the same level of commitment from other people.”

 
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