SATURDAY 18th May 2019

St Paul’s Churchyard, Covent Garden London


A great morning spent at The Annual Theatrical Flea Market in the grounds of The Actor’s Church- St Paul’s in Covent Garden. Hosted as always by Chris Biggins, this event raises a lot of money each year for “Acting For Others”, which encompasses several theatrical charities.

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A long queue to get in to the courtyard, and absolutely packed within the walls- a great sight to see! Pearly Kings and Queens and stalls representing and manned by the cast members of several West End Shows from “The Mousetrap” to “Les Miserable” with “Book Of Mormon”, “Only Fools And Horses”,”Phantom” and “Hamilton” in between!


Michael Batchelor- in Garden Party Mode!

we were greeted at the gate by the immaculately attired and hugely jolly Michael Batchelor, representing the world of Pantomime. Lovely to see him- he was recently nominated in the Best Costumier awards in the Great British Panto Awards- and just like then, there was not enough time for a proper chat today- Our Dame was working her stockings off entertaining the crowds!


Andrew Ryan & me with Michael- A Trio of Turns!

There were competitions, raffles (I was handed my ticket by Michael Howe) and Guess the Mice in the Mousetrap Jar.. The “Mousetrap” stall was fronted by our mate Alan Magor, who plays Trotter at the St Martin’s Theatre, and Lynette Edwards who plays Mrs Boyle.

Denise Silvey  who has a long association with the show, and husband and Graham Seed of “Archers” fame, were also manning the stall, as was Graham Fayne. Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen was helping out, and next door the plant stall was being manned by Haley Mills and Celia Imrie. Yes, I did buy a plant- it had to be done. And several raffle tickets!


Su Pollard- a medium (it says so on her knickers) and Adam Starr!

Great to bump into our Wolverhampton mate Adam Starr- here he is having his fortune told by today’s psychic Su.


Andrew Ryan and I went with our friend Isobel Hurll, former principal dancer at The Palladium, and we all had a great morning watching the charity auction, hosted by Chris Biggins, aided by Celia Imrie, Harriet Thorpe, Annette Badland, Tom Read Wilson and Wendi Peters. A lot of money was raised as the event drew to a close.


Great to see Designer Gregor Donnelly on the steps of the church, and to get a quick catch up. We had teaching rooms opposite each other at a NODA Summer School a while back, and have been mates ever since.


A Quick catch up with Chris B before the event closed- Chris of course hosted the GBPA at Wimbledon last month, and we’ll be meeting up again at the end of June for a theatrical event at The Hippodrome Birmingham. Can’t wait! Huge congratulations to everyone involved in raising money for the combined charities today. It really was a superb event!



Oh Yes! The Great British Panto Awards

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Not a drop passed our lips…. Well, Medicinal purposes only!

A fabulous Night Out at the Wimbledon Theatre to celebrate the Great British Pantomime Awards 2019 in the presence of Chris Biggins, MC and Compere to the Camper Comperes!

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Red carpet unfurled, and Wetherspoons bursting to the seams with sequins, The event began at 7pm Sunday 28th April.there are so many Panto folk to tag in the photos, I’m leaving it to the avid Panto spotter to spot- and I’ve added a list of just the Panto folk I can remember meeting up with during the evening. It was a crowded, joyful and jolly event- celebrating all things panto and catching up with mates that you never get the chance to see during the Pantomime season.

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Hello Hackney!

Daniel Dawson and Sam Munday-Webb (co-founders of GBPA) presented an evening full of speeches, awards, film clicks, live entertainment all with a Pantomime Twist- and Biggins announced presenters, nominees and winners through the night.


Chris really was in top form- in touch, in charge and incredibly funny as he led us on the Panto journey from an opening routine from students of Mountview, joined by Stagecoach’s Sophie Petit and from Rebecca Lake, through to Max Fulham’s speciality act- with his puppet Grandad  and Monkey in tow.


Max Fulham. Appearing in Bromley Panto this season alongside Chris Biggins and Ricky Jay.

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Awards flowed, trophies collected, speeches made and Entertainment to follow included Quinn Patrick in full Dame mode proving There is Nothing like A Dame.


Quinn Patrick

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Adam Star and Sam Munday Webb with Gill Jordan (Doreen Tipton)

There was a guest lecture by Doreen Tipton on the wonders of Brexit, and a rendition of “If I Were Not In Pantomime” by Liam Mellor, Jimmy Burton-Illes, Tom Rolfe and Damien Patton.


Andrew Ryan and I were presenting an award for Best Ugly Sister.


Nigel & Andrew

Last year’s winners you will recall were Ben Stock and Neal Wright.

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we were delighted to be able to mention a few of the Ugly Sisters of the past- and thanks to the magic of Ben Todman on Video Graphics, the audience could take a look at them!

Revnell and West Terry Scott Julian Orchard alvisodell Burdon and Moran


Brian Godfrey & David Moreton

And Two more pairs of Ugly Sisters were mentioned!



Andrew Ryan & Nigel Ellacott presenting

It was a huge delight to present the award to Les Dennis and Connor McIntyre! Les and I did Hull Panto togethert thirty years ago! Here is the very poster on my wall!


The Awards came thick and fast- for a full list of nominees and winners, take a look at the GBPA website here!


My personal favourite quote of the night- Morgan Brind made an excellent speech presenting the Best Special Effects category and summed the magic up as “and now for the best blacked-out thing on a stick… The nominees are….What a great line!

Here are just a few photos of some of tonights winners- but, like the end of every panto Songsheet, You know that absolutely EVERYONE taking part in a panto is a Winner!


Connor McIntyre & Les Dennis- Ugly Sisters 2019


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Kathryn Rooney- Best Director 2019


Clive Rowe- Best Dame 2019


Chris Jarvis- Best Principal Boy 2019

There are so many Winners- Here is a collection of photographs of just SOME of the winners- all the details are on the GBPA Website.

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Berwick receiving his lifetime acheivement award from Roy Hudd

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a Great bunch of musicians accompanied the show, headed by Drew Cowburn with Patrick Rufey, Chris Ford, Jamie Wilkins, Nathan Harding. Kris Jones and Dan Boardman.


Every Panto wrap Party is a good one, and this was no exception! A good time meeting up with your panto mates, meeting fellow performers and costumiers, stage managers and designers, direcors, producers, choreographers- the list is endless. So good to have this once a year opportunity to meet up without two shows a day! Thanks again to Daniel Dawson and Sam Munday Webb, to all their fabulous sponsors- to Ben Todman, Aimee Sinclair, the massive backstage and front of house team,  and the brilliant BSL Interpretor Martin Fox-Roberts. Final huge thanks to Chris Biggins for creating the magic tonight!

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And the obligatory Photo bomb!


In fact, it was still going on the next day at breakfast!

IMG_8948Morning all from Damian Williams!

Thanks to all of you out there who make the Magic and who book each and every year to see the magic onstage- live- and not on a screen near you! Here’s to the next time!

PS: If you have time to kill, or are waiting for a bus- here’s a list of the Panto folk present tonight from memory! I have missed about 400 Panto Persons out, for which I am deeply sorry! There are the ones i CAN remember! Starting with Andrew Ryan and myself- Nigel Ellacott, we had:

Daniel Dawson
Sam Munday-Webb
Chris Jarvis And Richie
Ben and Zoe Nickless
Les Dennis and Connor Mcintire
Elaine smith
Chris Jordan and the cast of Stevenage Panto
Berwick Kaler
Roy and Debbie Hudd
Chris Biggins

Su Pollard

Allan Stewart & Jane Danielle

Lesley Joseph

Steve& Sarah Boden

Gary Wilmot

Jenny Perry

Vincent Hayes

Andrew Robley

Kev Orkian

Jon Monie
Hayden Parker
The Twins
Brian Herring

Anthony Dean
Graham Cole
Kathryn Rooney
Robert Lindsay
Philip Meeks
Jamie Jones
David Phipps Davis
Paul James
Ben Roddy And Kate Burrell
Nick Barclay And Sophie Leigh Barclay
Quinn Patrick
Max Fulham
Paul Zerdin
Hilary O’Neil
Billy and Kerry Pearce
James and Robin – The Grumbleweeds
Liam Mellor , Jimmy Burton-Illes,
Tom Wolfe, Damian Patton
Gill Jordan /Doreen Tipton
Adam Starr
Susie McKenna
Martin Hinkins
David Robbins
Damian Williams
Jess Hicks
Mark jones
David And Sue Lane
David Roper
Graham Mclusky
Rick Coates
Paul Hendy
Emily Wood
Ian Billings
Chris Jordan & Natasha Gray
Laura Barrowcliff
Andrew Fettes
Verona Chard
Paul Tate
Matt Cole
Tristan Baker
Paul Holman
John Ogle
Terry Gleed
Martin Dodd
Elizabeth Dennis
Anne Marie And Lucy Conley
Elaine C Smith
Clive Rowe
Ben Todman
Morgan Brind And Steve
Jamie Bannerman, Ashley Emerson, Steven John Rae,
Ian Sheepie
Hannah jane Fox


And hundreds more. It was a busy night. Apologies to those I’ve missed!



The Great British Pantomime Awards 2019


Great British Pantomime Awards 2019 – in associate with Vocalzones

Hosted by Christopher Biggins

Sunday 28thApril 2019 at the New Wimbledon Theatre, London 

at 7pm

3rdYear of the Awards


GBPA announce- “we have a number of Acts performing on the night including BGT’s Francine Lewis, as well as Ricky Grover, and If I Was Not with Liam Mellor& Friends, and Max Fulham ventriloquist.

Some of the biggest names in Pantomime will be joining us on the evening.”


Tickets start at £10 – £50

Tickets from www.pantomimeawards.co.ukand click the link!

Special Offer . £10 off top three priced tickets using the code SARDINES

Adding To The Archive!


My archive at IBY isn’t just paper- although there are filing cabinets and portfolios full of programmes, posters and photographs, I’ve got a collection of Pantomime objects- my prized “Jack” doll from Jack & Jill- an early “off-sale” from Emile Littler circa 1933 for example.

This week I added this child’s tea set! It is made by Wedgewood and arrived in the original box marked 25 shillings and 6 pence! I paid a bit more than that! It is their “Pantomime” set, and has Goldilocks, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella , Jack & The Beanstalk and other Panto themes.


It is amazing that the set is intact, and the box original. I hope some children in the1930’s got to play with it before it was boxed up and hidden in an attic for seventy-odd years!

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The cabinets are looking over full, but a few recent additions have been “off-sales” again from different eras.

Panto badges have been sold in Theatres since the 1920’s. They’ve fallen out of fashion now- their height was in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. This badge could tear a tissue,or it could crush a grape! The Wonderful Stu Francis, who i had the joy of working with in Darlington in Cinderella a while back.


The other badge shows the late great Ronnie Corbett as Buttons in The Palladium Cinderella in 1971-72. The Third badge is the rarely seen “Puss In Boots” in Her Majesty’s Theatre, Carlisle. This Badge is from the last days of “Her Majesty’s” as The Theatre was briefly renamed The Municipal Theatre  in the early 1960’s and closed in 1963. Like many others it became a Bingo Hall, This closed in 1970, and it was demolished in 1980. A Littlewoods store replaced it… and we know what happened to Littlewoods!


here are two small badges sold in  theatres that starred Mona Vivian. we have a comprehensive article about “Wee Mona” on this site if you want to learn more about this artiste. The link is  http://www.its-behind-you.com/monavivian.html

The Victoria Beckham of her day, in as much as she married the founder of Leeds Football Club and the wealthy pair were feted and honoured everywhere. The badge is from an Emile Littler panto showing Mona as Principal Boy at The Opera House, Manchester. The Badge with the hat was also sold at theatres where she appeared in revue and variety.

Another small badge from “Cinderella” is from Emile Littler’s selection of off-sales in the late 1920’s.



Your Wish Is My Command! A Thimble.



The Thimble is inscribed with the words “I am your Genie. Make A Wish” Aladdin’s lamp is flipped over revealing the thimble beneath. in-Genie-ous!



A recent acquisition for the archive has been a programme of Humpty Dumpty starring the Dame who influenced Les Dawson, Norman Evans. He starred alongside his comedy pal Betty Jumel. They both appeared in this subject frequently over the years.


This is the cover of the Leeds pantomime with an illustration of Norman Evans as he appeared in his variety sketch- “Over The Garden Wall”.



Norman Evans, With Betty Jumel and (from the Palladium production) Terry Thomas. 

NORMAN EVANS– “Over The Garden Wall”

Unquestionably one of the greatest pantomime dames of  his time, and possibly of all time- Norman Evan’s dame was the inspiration for performers like Terry Scott, who decided to go into Theatre after seeing him in panto, and, of course, Les Dawson, who modelled his “Ada” character on Norman’s Fanny Fairbottom.

Born in Rochdale in 1901, Norman began his working career as a travelling  salesman, discovering that a quick and witty line in chat would boost his sales, and began entertaining at masonics and “smokers”. He was discovered by Rochdale’s own Gracie Fields, who, after asking him to audition in her dressing room, and offered him a spot in her show at the Chiswick Empire. Oswald Stoll saw him on the Friday, and booked him for the London Alhambra on the spot.


Gracie Fields had toured the country in “Mr Tower of London”, and when it finished in 1935 it was recast with Norman and Betty Driver in the lead roles. (Betty Driver, of course was better known as “Betty” from Coronation Street, but at that time one of the top vocalists). The show was a huge success.

Norman’s best known sketch was “Over the Garden Wall”, in which he created Fanny Fairbottom, the nosy neighbour complete with ample bosom and deficient in teeth. Constantly in mid gossip she would slip off the wall, denting her bosom. “That’s twice on the same brick this week…” Fanny would gossip to an imaginary neighbour about everything that went on in her street. “That Coalman’s at it again.. don’t tell me it takes thirty-five minutes to deliver two bags of nuts!” this was the character that Norman perpetuated in pantomime throughout the country.

Here’s a link to Norman Evans Sketch on Youtube:   https://youtu.be/iQZm3mlaowM

He made his panto debut, as Billy Crusoe at the Chiswick Empire, and played several seasons for Francis Laidler at the London Coliseum. In 1951 Tom Arnold brought “Humpty Dumpty” to the Palladium, with Norman as Dame, Terry Thomas as King, and Betty Jumel “The Bundle of Fun” as Humpty.


In Variety Norman continued to work with Betty Jumel. He would often play a huge soprano to Betty’s diminutive tenor in an opera sketch. His other famous sketches included a Marcel Marceau style Dentist, and an act with a glove puppet panda- a sort of forerunner to “Sooty”.


Betty Jumel spent her life on tour in variety halls. She was known for her unfailing instinct for the mildly grotesque, as she interrupted herself during a piano recital, or took a drink of water from a vase of wilting flowers. Over more than half a century of performing her craft resulted in her simple, but brilliantly timed acts making her renowned wherever she went. Such was her comic timing that she also appeared in pantomimes in the winter and concert parties in the summer


In 1949 Norman made his first visit to New York, and was a success at the Palace Theatre. He returned to a 20 week Panto season at the Theatre Royal, Leeds, before returning to the States to play the El Capitan Theatre, Hollywood, then onto Toronto. A frequent traveller on the Queen Elizabeth, he enjoyed seasons in Washington and in California over the years. In Britain he appeared in three Royal Variety Performances in 1937, 1947 and in 1951.


The London Palladium Programme.

Despite failing health, and his injuries resulting from a car accident, Norman continued to play pantomime and variety across the country and in America. He died in 1962.

My collection was boosted recently with four LP’s from The World of The London Palladium and Coliseum Pantomimes. They speak for themselves!

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IMG_8853Note Kenneth Williams and Ted Durante as The Ugly Sisters in this Musical version.

This was staged at The London Coliseum.

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The London Palladium “Aladdin”  There is a section devoted to The Palladium Pantomimes on this site. You’ll find it in the Articles Section.



Finally Here is a handbill from the Paul Elliott production of “Dick Whittington” at The Wimbledon Theatre. Staged by Carole Todd it had a host of stars in this 1981 Panto including my mate Jan Hunt. I worked with Jan who played Principal Boy and Fairy Godmother over the years we did together, and appeared in several Music Hall shows for her “Paper Moon” Company.

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Here’s Cherida Langford with her daughter Zizi, and Sister Bonnie Langford.

If you look at the Wimbledon Panto Flyer you will see the Langford-Strallen Dynasty starting! Under the title you can see Cherida Langford and Sandy Strallen appearing. They had married in 1980. Both were stars of the original West End production of “Cats”.

Here is a link to youtube to see Sandy & Cherida dancing on Top Of The Pops theyear after this Wimbledon Pantomime.


Sandy & Cherida  created a West End Dynasty- their children are  Summer Strallen, Scarlett Strallen, Zizi Strallen and Saskia.

Bonnie Langford is The Sister of Cherida, and in this Pantomime it is  Bonnie’s and Cherida’s Mother,  Babette who  provides and trains the juveniles, as she always did at Wimbledon as “The Babette Palmer Young Set”

So, just a few recent treasures from the IBY cabinets! Don’t forget to visit the V&A Theatre and performing arts galleries to take a look at the Ugly SistersBallgowns I donated last year- They are glittering away in a case next to Danny La Rue’s Plymouth Aladdin Costume and Clive Rowe’s Hackney Empire Costumes.







Ten Years ago today-April 15th I lost my Stage partner and best Bosom Buddy- Peter Robbins. It is hard to believe that a decade has passed- Peter was Fifty-Six when he died, and we were booked to appear in Wolverhampton Panto later that year.

I’ve had the great joy of playing Dame since 2009, and look forward to this year’s panto (to be announced!) but there isn’t a time when I’m sitting in my dressing room that I dont look across at where he sat for twenty-six years of great laughter. Here are a few photos to bring back those memories.

Peter would be so proud his Ballgown is currently on display at The V&A!

Dames on Display!




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This Ball costume, along with mine, is currently on display at the V&A Museum, London in the Theatre and Performance Galleries.


Portrait by the artist Judy Graham.

Panto Pals!

The past couple of weeks has been a joy, meeting up with pals from Pantoland, and catching up on their news, seeing their shows and generally touching base after our various seasons across the country.

This week-end I’m off to Crufts to see Ashleigh Butler and Sully strut their stuff in the agility ring- the finals being just before “Best Of Show” on Sunday at the NECC in Birmingham.


Ashleigh & Sully at Crufts last year.

Ashleigh and I have been together in two pantomimes- Northampton and High Wycombe and this year the duo went to The Sands Centre, Carlisle with Ashleigh as Dorothy in “The Wizard Of Oz”. Looking forward to catching up on Sunday and seeing Sully compete in the Agility. There was a taster on TV last night with Claire Balding interviewing Ashleigh, and a demonstration of some of the obstacles Sully will be facing in the ring!

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From last night’s Crufts on TV.

Last week-end (My Birthday week-end- yes, I’m approaching thirty, but I hear you ask “From which Direction?”) we went to Sunny Benidorm. In actuality it was Sunny Brighton to SEE Benidorm Live, at the Theatre Royal with our mate Sherrie Hewson as Joyce Temple-Savage. We had a fun couple of days catching up on things- Sherrie missed panto this year as the tour of Benidorm played the Alexandra Theatre Birmingham for the season for Michael Harrison and David Ian. The tour is continuing for another six weeks. I think this week marks the 200th Performance when they are in Aberdeen!

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In Sunny (actually rainy) Brighton with Sherrie Hewson and Andrew Ryan.

Sherrie and Andrew were in “Beauty & The Beast” at Nottingham Theatre Royal the year before last, and between Andrew and I we’ve been in four, possibly five pantos with Sherrie. we had a jolly time- the picture of Sherrie is at the Brighton Museum, which has a small section on performing Arts in the town. We’ll catch up with Miss Hewson in Wimbledon when Benidorm arrives there.


Talking of Museums, The costumes I donated to the V&A Performance Galleries are still there on display, so there is still time to take a look at the Ballroom costumes worn by Peter Robbins and myself as we Go To The Ball!


The social whirl continued with a Joe Allans meal with Chris Jarvis last week. Chris has just finished appearing, writing and Directing Poole Lighthouse “Dick Whittington” and is, in fact nominated in the Best Principal Boy section of the Great British Pantomime Awards! Chris and I did Wycombe Jack & The Beanstalk the year before last, and Andrew Ryan has appeared with Chris in panto as well. Here’s a picture of Chris,Me, Richie, and Andrew.


Andrew Ryan, James Horne, Nigel Ellacott

A few days before here’s Andrew and I with Panto Dame James Horne. James is the veteran of many a Panto across the country,and a frequent performer in the West End.  He and Andrew played Sister together at Bath Theatre Royal back in the day. Here we are having a jolly evening at Bar Atlantic, in Zedel’s.


Linking in quite nicely- here’s the current line up for Bath Theatre Royal- and today (March 8th) is our Panto Pal Nick Wilton’s Birthday! Nick was at Blackpool Grand last season, and returns to Bath with his mate Jon Monie for this year’s panto.


Michelle Potter

Birthday girl (8th March) today is the lovely Michelle Potter, seen here in “Cinderella” with Brian Conley. This was taken at Nottingham Theatre Royal when Peter Robbins and I were Ugly Sisters- I think Michelle was our “Cinders” for four Pantomimes. Happy Birthday Michelle!

It’s a small small world! Crossing the car park of the Kenneth More Theatre today, I ran into the company of “The Feel Good Show”, headlined by Roger Wright that is currently touring. Amongs the cast, my lovely gorgeous mate Denise Pitter! 

Denise was Fairy Godmother in Nottingham in 2009 when Michelle Potter was Cinderella. How apt we met up today on Michelle’s Birthday! Here we are today backstage.

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Nigel & Denise

My joy was walking along the dressing room corridor at The Theatre Royal passing two doors that said “Pitter” and “Potter”. Easily amused! Here is Denise and Michelle with Brian Conley. Brian of course is currently starring in “Nine To Five” at The Savoy Theatre, London.


Denise, Brian & Michelle


Victoria Aindow, Lucy Reed, Nigel Ellacott & Sam Sadler. Brick Lane Music Hall.

To finish off a busy few weeks of socialising, we called in to see “Mother’s Goosed” the Panto for Grown-Ups at Brick Lane Music Hall. It was a joyful and different experience to be sitting out front in the packed auditorium watching the fun and frolics onstage for a change. First visit out front in Five Years!


Every One A Water Rat! From The GOWR we have Brick Lane Boss Vincent Hayes, Chris Emmett (from The News Huddlines and TV’s “3,2,1”)with Paul James and  Fifties Pop Idol Jess Conrad with Andrew Robley.

Had a great afternoon watching the panto and catching up with everyone at BLMH. We sat near the wonderful trio of musicians, Tom Carradine, Andy Pook and Martin Layzell. Here’s a backstage picture of the company.


This photo includes Jess’s wife Renee, David Phipps Davis as Demon, Phil Randall as Goose, Mark Hinton Designer and Andrew Ryan and myself.

A great afternoon out. The Panto at Brick Lane Music Hall is a complete sell-out, and has been since well before Christmas. It finishes on Saturday. Next year it will yet again be Extended by a week! So this has to be the last panto still running of the season! Now, all around the UK the new popularity of Easter Panto is about to go into rehearsal! Long live Pantoland and all the mates we meet on the way!

The Great British Pantomime Nominations 2019


The Nominations for the GBPA have been announced- here they are!