IF YOU don’t know the story behind Calendar Girls then you’ve been hiding.
For since 11 middle-aged woman bared all to raise money for charity, those real-life Calendar Girls have become media stars.
For anyone who has managed not to hear about the women from a Yorkshire Dales village who agreed to pose nude for a calendar, raising money for Leukaemia Research, all you have to do is head for Marsden.
The village’s amateur operatic and dramatic society is the latest in a run of local companies staging the heart-warming story of Calendar Girls since this show, based on a real-life story, was released for production by amateurs.
The show opens at Marsden’s Parochial Hall on Tuesday, May 14, and runs until Saturday. Its producer is Peter Armitage, one of the region’s most experienced directors.
Though he says he will be breaking one habit during the run of this show.
“I always like to be around when I’ve produced a show,” said Peter.
“But I won’t be in Marsden for the Saturday performance of Calendar Girls.”
He’s managed to double-book himself and while the show is doubtless bringing down the house at the Parochial Hall, Peter will be on stage in Huddersfield.
“I’ve agreed to compere a big massed ladies choir concert with the soprano Lynne Dawson at Huddersfield Town Hall.
“It’s for Cancer Research so I said I’d do it.”
In Marsden meanwhile, there’s a cast packed with acting talent.
The lead players include Sam Bates as Chris and Sue Hellawell as Annie with Elaine Thomson as Jessie, Charlotte Westwood as Cora, Hayley Taylor as Ruth, Carolyn Taylor as Celia plus Stephen Jamieson as John and Daniel Killeen as Lawrence.
At the heart of the story are Annie Clarke and her friend Chris Harper.
When Annie’s husband John died from leukaemia at an early age, Chris suggested they raise enough money to buy a comfy sofa for all those other people waiting anxiously in the hospital where John was treated.
But how to do it? Her idea was probably greeted in turns as brave, mad and “dare we?” And they did.
The two, plus friends from the Knapely branch of the Women’s Institute posed naked while doing everyday things such as baking and knitting.
That original calendar caused a sensation. Thirteen years ago, the idea of a group of middle-aged women agreeing to take their clothes off for a calendar was unheard of.
But their willingness to challenge convention won them many friends and their bravery paid off handsomely.
The proceeds from their 2000 calendar was used to fund lymphoma and leukaemia research in new laboratories at the University of Leeds.
A plaque there is dedicated to John Baker, the man whose life inspired the Calendar Girls.
What few could have expected was that in addition to raising money, the calendar raised the profile of those involved and their story.
Miramax turned it into a hugely successful film written by Tim and Juliette Towhidi.
A film, a stage play and global headlines followed and since it was released for production by amateur companies there has been a rush of societies wanting to get involved in sharing the Calendar Girls’ story.
See the power of this terrific story for yourself in Marsden next week.