IF YOU were a theatre fan back in the mid-80s then the only way to see top quality shows on a regular basis was to leave town.
But that wasn’t quite as easy as it is today. For though theatres throughout the region were being rejuvenated, the same couldn’t be said for transport links and getting to other major towns and cities could be a headache.
Then Colin Baldwin came up with a bright idea. Colin was convinced that there were many others in Huddersfield who loved outings to the theatre just like he and his wife Ann did.
So in 1985, he and Ann set up Huddersfield Theatregoers Club and turned a whole generation of theatregoers into travellers too.
Their first outing was to the Royal Exchange in Manchester to see Shakespeare’s comedy, As You Like It. And that first coachload certainly did, at a cost of £4 per person including transport.
Colin had hoped that next year he would be able to celebrate 25 years at the helm of a Theatregoers’ Club which, with around 260 members, has been to well over 900 performances at theatres in Yorkshire, Lancashire and the East Midlands.
Sadly, Colin, who lives in Edgerton, had a mild stroke earlier this year and needs to take things easier. But, what looked as if it might be the club’s final season with retirement from running theatre trips for Colin and Ann, has led to a new role for their daughter-in-law Christine.
Over the years, Christine, her husband Neil and their three daughters, have joined Colin and Ann on many of their theatre trips.
“When the children were younger they loved going to the pantomimes and musicals,” said Christine.
“The girls particularly loved Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and got to know all the songs. Now that they are older and studying for GCSEs and A levels, they can readily see the plays that they are studying for their exams whether it be Shakespeare or Pinter.”
She added: “Ann and Colin will be a hard act to follow but I’m really looking forward to the challenge. All the members have been really supportive and I’ve received lots of letters wishing me well. It has been really heart-warming. Everyone is so happy that the club is carrying on.”
Within weeks of an Examiner article in 1985 about Colin’s ideas for a club that would make theatregoing easier, over 100 people had asked to join. Within two years, membership was up to 270 with a waiting list. Many of the original members are still going on trips.
As for what Huddersfield theatre fans like, it seems that though musicals and ballet remain popular, the club’s members have always been willing to go to productions that were unfamiliar or experimental.
Members have seen the launch of many a career: Michael Sheen, Janet McTeer, Gary Oldman, David Threlfall, Ralph Fiennes and Harriet Walter have all been seen in early productions. Outstanding performances from the late John Thaw in Arthur Miller’s play All My Sons and from Derek Jacobi, in Don Carlos, linger in many memories.
Not everything, admits Colin, has gone to plan. One Friday night on a visit to Oldham Coliseum, the coachload of theatregoers was diverted by police from its usual pick-up point because of a street closure.
“Eventually the coach was allowed to back up a one-way street so that we could get on for the return journey,” said Colin.
“I was busy loading the coach when a scantily-clad young woman came out to greet us. We’d stopped outside a lap-dancing club and she thought we were a coachload of customers!”
More sedate destinations included day trips to museums, art galleries, gardens and craft fairs as well as theatre visits and Christine hopes to expand both membership and the number of trips on offer.
She can be sure that if there are any hiccups on future outings, experienced hands Colin and Ann will be there to help. They may have stepped aside from running Huddersfield Theatregoers’ Club but they don’t intend to miss out on theatre trips any time soon.
Anyone interested in joining Huddersfield Theatregoers, which offers a chance to see shows and go on other trips, should contact Christine via the new website, www.theatregoersclub.co.uk or call her on 07842 080716.