Monthly Archives: January 2017

Birmingham Panto Party Night!


I dashed up to Birmingham on Thursday (26th January) to catch up with panto mates at the wrap party for the Hippodrome’s Qdos panto”Dick Whittington”.

It’s a fantastic show, loads of comedy, spectacle and great effects from The Twins as you’d expect in this premier venue!


Andrew Ryan & Nigel Ellacott

Lovely to meet up with panto mates- some of us go back quite a long way!. Above there’s me with Andrew Ryan (mid shipwoman Mid Show) and his lovely wardrobe lady Nicky Evans, and Janette (Krankie) Tough and Allan Stewart. I did “Cinderella” with Allan for the Millennium at Edinburgh Kings. A Magical New Year that was!


Nigel & Andrew

The party was a gathering of the great and good from Qdos and from the ATG (Ambassadors Theatre Group) who come together this season to present over thirty pantomimes- Great to see Nickand Sandra Thomas, Michael Harrison, Jonathan Kiley and Mark Sherwood  in the Qdos Lounge after the show.

It was a busy day. I did my show in East London and had my after show shower in Birmingham! Funny old job this! Got to the Hippodrome well after curtain up, but I’ve seen the joyous show three times. Joined Andrew Ryan and  my panto mates in the Qdos Lounge after the panto, and we jollied and chatted and eat and drank until 2.30am. Nice to see fellow Dames Chris Hayward (just finished his long Newcastle season as Fairy Godmother) along with panto Dame David Robbins (Southend) and Dame and Author Alan McHugh.

Stuart Griffiths (now in charge of programming for ATG) was there along with Tony Priestley. Tony has been looking after the costumes here at the Hippo for the season. He and I were involved in the Wilton’s Music Hall panto with Roy and Debbie Hudd earlier this Winter.

Lovely to see Val and Theresa Nalton (Theresa is the Qdos wardrobe head, as was her Mother Val before her) )and Qdos  marketing chiefs Adrian LeSurf and Mark Jones. Gary and Yvonne Hind were there-Gary created some amazing music for the Palladium Pantomime this year, along with several other venues.


Andrew with his award.

The cast of the Hippodrome attended their special in panto awards ceremony- hosted by Kage Douglas (he plays Sultan Vinegar) and Company Manager Lucy Westnidge. Speeches by John Barrowman and awards going to Andrew Ryan, Matt Slack, Roanne Bray, Steve McFadden and Janette Krankie- collecting her “blooper”award!


Andrew & Janette

It was a night when many of us remembered our dear friend and fellow Dame Brian Godfrey. Brian died just a year ago. He would have loved tonight’s Qdos celebration in Birmingham. Here are a few pictures of the man himself. So sadly and dearly missed.

Brian Godfrey


RONNE COYLES (1930-2017)


Sad news received today at IBY. Ronne Coyles, superb Pantomime Dame and “Mr Show Business” for so many Summer Seasons passed away a few days ago.

Here are some memories of Ronne and a list of his pantomimes (compiled by Vivyan Ellacott)

As tributes are received we will add them to the bottom of this article.Please scroll down.

Ronne was a firecracker of a dame- short in stature and high on energy. An amazing Tap Dancer, he brought all his skills from Variety and Pantomime to each Dame role that he played. Barbara Windsor said to him of his role as Dame- “You know what Ronne, I like you because you’re not camp!” and Ronne said of himself “I go on as myself but in character, as a man dressed as a woman.”


Nigel Ellacott:

Ronne was this country’s longest serving Pantomime Dame. He appeared in over sixty pantomimes from his early days as a child performer until his retirement.

He was a wonderful Dame to watch- I am so grateful to have witnessed his strip- a piece of Panto Magic, and totally unique to Ronne. Back in the ‘Seventies he and I shared digs. Ronne was in Panto at the New Theatre Cardiff, and I was at the Sherman.

Those were magic times when we’d both return from our shows and Ronne would tell me about the Pantomimes he’d known as a kid. we also solved a mystery- every time we got in the gas fires in our rooms (on meters of course) were slightly warm, but the meter was empty!. The TV had a slight warmth too. It was Ronne discovered while we were in panto the landlady would go from room to room basking in the gas fire’s glow till the money ran out!


With Stan Stennet, and Eddie & Eileen “The Falcons” Swansea.

Ronne will also be remembered for giving the best impersonation of Bette Davis apart from Bette Davis herself! It would creep into a panto at some point and crack both audience and cast up!

This amazing man had a career revival when a fan- Harry Hill, invited him onto his Television show, and he bacame a favourite. Keith Harris would employ his mate Ronne whenever possible to play Dame, and Keith and I would recall his brilliance years later when we worked together.

Here is a short piece from the archive about Ronne and his career.We’ll be adding tributes to Ronne to this piece over the next few days.



Ronne, who was born in Blyth, Northumberland, started in showbiz at the age of 14 as a boy soprano.

He began performing at 14 as a boy soprano, going on to appear in over 66 pantomimes, most notably as the dame.Diminutive in statue, but towering in performance, Ronné Coyles has been a perennial Pantomime Dame since he first donned the skirts in the early 1970’s.

A seasoned pantomime and cabaret performer, Ronné began his career at an early age in concert parties.  As a young man he was on the bill with Bud Flanagan at the Bristol Hippodrome, singing one of the Flanagan and Allen songs in his act. This led to him appearing with “The Crazy Gang” at the Victoria Palace, and making several films including “Here comes the Sun” with them. During his career has been a trapeze artist, acrobatic dancer, singer and tap dancer.

As Dame his dancing skills were often called upon- one of the fastest “tappers” in the “business”, he incorporated these skills into his unique “Strip” routine, when as Dame he would begin to remove his clothing, only to be interrupted- hide behind a small screen, and almost impossibly change into full 1920’s “flapper” gear, and dance a frenetic Charleston before collapsing into a laundry basket- it still remains one of the most creative “strip routines” I have seen on stage to date!


Ronné was featured in one of the first documentaries about Pantomime for BBC2’s “Man Alive”, which dealt with the life of a pantomime performer. A firm favourite in Summer seasons at Morecambe and around the country, he appeared as Dame in “Humpty Dumpty” at London’s Dominion Theatre, a lavish production starring Keith Harris that was presented in several other cities during the next few years.

Ronne came to Morecambe in 1965 and his season at the Ocean Room was such a success he was invited back the following year In 1972 Sybil Sheldon, the owner of the Palace Theatre on the Battery Promenade, asked Ronne to top the bill at a new variety revue show.

“I was there for 10 glorious years and it was wonderful,” he says.

At its peak the Palace would run three shows a week, all hosted by Ronne, called: ‘This is Showbusiness’, ‘This is Music Hall’ and ‘This is Command Performance’.

He later teamed up again  with Keith Harris in pantomimes at the Fernham Hall in Fareham, where Keith presented panto from 2001 to 2007- he appeared as Dame Tilly Trott in Goldilocks, as Sarah The Cook in Dick Whittington, and as Baron in “Cinderella” when the Lavelle Twins played Sisters.

He achieved Television fame in 2001 when he joined Harry Hill in the Children’s series “TV Burp” which ran until 2004.

Vivyan Ellacott writes:

I first met Ronné Coyles in “Robinson Crusoe” at the Swansea Grand in 1969.  He was very different from the Dames I’d worked with in the past:  there was nothing “Mumsy” about his style   –   he was incredibly slick, fast-moving and zippy,  and boy! –  could he tap!

He was also a genuinely friendly person, with a great store of fun stories about the “old” days.  He wasn’t quite 40 years old, but his “old” days really did stretch back.  It seems he had appeared as a child performer in ten or so pantos before being selected to appear in a couple of films in the 1940s.

He appeared in his first film in 1947, in the part of a 14 year old boy.  He would actually have been 17, but, being rather small in build, he easily got away with it.  By the time he was 20 he was appearing as a singer, dancer and impressionist, sharing a bill with Adelaide Hall at Collin’s in 1950, with his own bill-matter “Juvenile film star”!  His professional panto career started around that time.

Few panto performers, if any, can have had such a long and successful career, starting as Ugly Sister, and thereafter, almost always, Dame. A full list of his pantomimes is difficult to achieve:  in addition to the ten or so that he appeared in as a juvenile, an article in the Lancaster Guardian says he appeared in pantos at the Morecambe Palace (his eventual home town) on five separate occasions, working alongside Morecambe dance choreographer, Joyce Warrington.

At the time of his last pantomime he was 78 years old, and, according to The Stage review for that show, he was appearing in his 66th pantomime.  He worked consistently throughout his career,  but finally retired at the age of 78, because “his heart went out of it” after the death of his life-long partner and manager, Bob Pettigrew.

He suffered a stroke at the beginning of December 2016, and on January 20th, just days before he was due to move from hospital in Morecambe into care at Brinsworth, he died. He was 86 years old.  Ronné is survived by his brother Jack and sisters Hilda, Glennis and Vivian.

The known dates are:

1952-53        Cinderella – Hastings White Rock (Sister) with Tony Claren

1953-54           Cinderella  – Westcliff Palace (Sister) with Tony Claren

1954-5             No panto due to late cancellation?

1955-6             Cinderella –  Hulme Hippodrome (Sister) with Gus Aubrey

1956-65           Nine missing years.  No panto details.

1965-66           Cinderella – Scunthorpe Essoldo (Sister) with Dave Peters

1966-67           Cinderella – Salford Victoria (Sister) with Roy Rolland

1967-68           Jack & Beanstalk – Salford Victoria

1968-69           Babes in the Wood  – Salford Victoria

1969-70           Robinson Crusoe – Swansea Grand

1970-71           Wolverhampton Grand

1971-72           Red Riding Hood – Wolverhampton Grand

1972-73           Goldilocks – Cardiff New (Humphrey the Handyman- NOT Dame)

1973-74           Robinson Crusoe – Cardiff New

1974-75           Aladdin – Cardiff New

1975-76           Jack & Beanstalk – Bournemouth Pavilion

1976-77           Aladdin – Bradford Alhambra

1977-78           Aladdin – Plymouth Hoe

1978-79           Dick Whittington – Manchester Opera House

1979-80           Robinson Crusoe – Plymouth Palace

1980-81           Jack & Beanstalk – Newcastle T.R.

1981-82           Cinderella – Cardiff New (Sister) with Geoffrey Brightman

1982-83           Aladdin – Bournemouth Pavilion

1983-84           Humpty Dumpty – Cardiff New

1984-85           Humpty Dumpty – Dominion

1985-86           Jack & Beanstalk – Dartford Orchard

1986-87           Humpty Dumpty – Sunderland Empire

1987-88           Humpty Dumpty – Hull, New

1988-89           Humpty Dumpty – Nottingham T.R.

1989-90           Humpty Dumpty – Oxford Apollo

1990-91           Jack & Beanstalk – Bradford Alhambra

1991-92           Jack & Beanstalk – Bournemouth Pavilion

1992-93           Mother Goose – Rhyl New Pavilion

1993-94           Aladdin – High Wycombe

1994-95           Dick Whittington – Southport

1995-96           Aladdin – Preston Charter

1996-97           Jack & Beanstalk – Weston-super-Mare Playhouse

1997-98           Jack & Beanstalk – Dorking Halls

1998-99           Billy & Bonzo meet the  Babes in the Wood – South Wales tour

1999-00           Red Riding Hood – Southport

2000-01           Jack & Beanstalk – Hull New

2001-02           Unknown

2002-03           Goldilocks, Billingham


2003-04           Dick Whittington – Fareham

2004-05           Goldilocks – Bolton Octagon

2005-06           Goldilocks – Fareham

2006-07           Aladdin – Fareham

2007-08           Cinderella – Fareham (Baron Hardup )

2008-09           Dick Whittington – Fareham


Barrie Stacey remembers:

Ronne was a true pro. We first met and worked at The Coffee House Haymarket many years ago and with Poppy Cooper he was a great success – apart from the splendid food available! His ‘Dame’ was delightful and his talent universal. Barrie Stacey

Here are Ronne’s thoughts on his Harry Hill appearances from an Interview he gave at the time:

PANTOMIME Dame extraordinaire Ronne Coyles has swapped his outrageous make-up and wig for the equally outrageous alternative comedy of The Harry Hill Show.

The versatile entertainer, who has lived in Morecambe for over 35 years, has just finished filming a series of comic sketches for Harry Hill’s new ITV series to be shown in the new year. When Ronne returned home after recording the shows in London, he received a letter of thanks from Harry himself, which said: “Hope to see you next year for series two!”

Ronne, who has starred in 62 pantomimes during a showbiz career which began in the early 1940s, worked on the show alongside celebrities such as Dale Winton, Dora Bryan, Nigel Havers, Lee Chapman and Leslie Ash, and Neil and Christine Hamilton.

“But I don’t want to give too much away about the show, because I don’t want to spoil it!” he says.

Ronne has made the odd TV appearance in the past like on ‘The Michael Barrymore Show’ and the ‘Man Alive’ BBC2 documentary about the life of a pantomime dame.

And although he is best-known for his stage career, he says he adapted well to the challenge of the small screen. “On the show Harry wanted me to tap dance for him, so we did this routine and the audience reaction was amazing because they hadn’t seen it before,” he says.

“It’s like the old song goes, ‘Everything old is new again’. Things have changed because in the old days you were constantly working everywhere in the theatre so TV didn’t really come in to it.”

“In 1983 I was at the New Theatre in Cardiff with Keith Harris and Bobby Crush and Princess Margaret was there,” he remembers.

“We were all being introduced to her. I was playing the Queen of Hearts and I had this wig on which was about a mile high.

“As she was getting nearer I said to Keith Harris and Bobby Crush: “I’m the dame, should I bow or curtsey?’

“I took her hand and I bowed but I forgot about the wig. It fell off and nearly hit her.

“As she screamed two detectives rushed forward because they thought I was attacking her.

“But I managed to get the wig back on and the place erupted in laughter!”

He says the secret to being a good dame is “being yourself”.

Ronne was one of this businesses longest serving Panto Stars.He will be sadly missed.




Barbara’s Aida Foster Chums


We recently received an email from a production company working alongside the  BBC regarding a forthcoming project. It looks at the lives of celebrities and their contemporaries In Dame Barbara’s case fellow pupils of Aida Foster School.

The school provided children for West End shows and Pantomime, as well as running a succesful agency. When I first arrived in London I was taken on by the Aida Foster Agency with Anita Foster at the helm.

Here’s a request for information from the Television Company:

We’re currently developing a new BBC programme that involves a celebrity’s journey into their past to find out how the lives of their contemporaries have panned out, all while tapping into iconic moments of social history.

We came across this wonderful photo of Barbara Windsor as an Aida Foster Juvenile in “Sleeping Beauty” at the Golders Green Hippodrome, at age 13/14:


This was Barbara Windsor’s (born Barbara Ann Deeks) Pantomime debut (1950-51), and we’re looking for people who feature in the photograph alongside Barbara!

If this is you or if you recognise one or two faces, we would love to hear from you!

Please get in touch with researcher Laura Hartung at or call +44 203 773 7182. Thank you!

Here’s another Aida Foster picture sent to us a few years ago- The date is 1953


are you in either of these pictures?



To Me To You- 50 years!


The Chuckle Brothers, Paul and Barry celebrate Fifty Incredible years of ShowBusiness this year. Here they are at the launch of this season’s Nottingham Theatre Royal “Jack & The Beanstalk”.

We celebrated the Chucks a few years back with a feature in our IBY “Spotlight” series. Here is the link to it on the site. It is a gift, From Me, to you!


Palladium Days!


Photographs courtesy of Craig Sugden

Wednesday 11th January 2016

A glorious day backstage at The London Palladium doing a panto style “Make-Over” on two lovely ladies, Norie and Louise!

Norie Lijima won a competition run by Qdos, The Palladium (RUG) and SOLT Accompanied by her friend Louise Forster the ladies were met at The Palladium, given a tour of the building- they especially enjoyed The Royal Box- and then got a Panto Dame style make-over with me before heading for the stage!


Craig Sugden was at hand along with staff from the Palladium to do a Photo Shoot on the set of Cinderella’s Palace Finale, joined by Mark Jones from Qdos Entertainment and Elizabeth Stormfield from SOLT. Teresa at Qdos supplied a pair of fabulous costumes for the event, and we had a lot of fun during the afternoon!


I’m in awe of the backstage changes to the Palladium. It is carpeted throughout and looks very spruced up to my last visit a few years ago. The wings were packed with the props and scenery for the evening’s pantomime- including my old car! Yes- the beautiful Rolls Royce that I had to make my entrance in “Sleeping Beauty” two years ago is now The Baroness’s mode of transport for Paul O’Grady! In between it was borrowed by someone called err.. oh yes, Glenn Close for “Sunset Boulevard” at the Coliseum- which means the lovely Ria Jones rode in it as well!


After the ladies left for dinner- followed by  champagne in the VIP room and the show, I packed up my make-up and headed front of house to take my seats in K row (Thanks Jess!) to see The most glorious and magical Pantomime!


After nearly thirty years the Magic of Pantomime has returned to its home- and it couldn’t be more magical if it tried! Bookings are already being taken I’m sure for next year’s “Dick Whittington”. Book early-It will be a total sell out!


Qdos & ATG : The Stage 10/1/20

Qdos, which produced 26 pantomimes in the last season, including Cinderella at the London Palladium, will partner with ATG. Photo: Paul Coltas/Steve Williams


ATG dumps panto division to reunite with Qdos

Qdos, which produced 26 pantomimes in the last season, including Cinderella at the London Palladium, will partner with ATG. Photo: Paul Coltas/Steve Williams

Ambassador Theatre Group has announced a new partnership with the UK’s leading pantomime producer Qdos Entertainment, in a move that will see ATG dissolve its own pantomime division.

The move marks a reunion for two of the biggest players in regional theatre. ATG and Qdos have previously worked together on pantomimes, however ties were severed upon the creation of First Family Entertainment by ATG and fellow theatre operator Live Nation in 2005.

The new development is also the latest in a number of structural shake-ups at ATG, which began when co-founders and joint chief executives Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire stepped down in May 2016 to be replaced by Mark Cornell.

It has now been confirmed that FFE chief executive Kevin Wood will step down at the end of the current pantomime season, along with associate producers Laura Taylor and George Wood.

Under the new partnership, market leader Qdos will produce pantomimes for ATG venues in addition to those it already creates. In 2016/17, Qdos produced 26 pantomimes – including the first to run at the London Palladium in almost 30 years, with FFE creating 10 at ATG venues.

Qdos managing director Michael Harrison confirmed that the new venture meant it would take on the roster of venues formerly held by FFE. However, there are no plans to expand into more ATG venues beyond that.

Prior to the formation of FFE in 2005, ATG made bids to acquire Qdos but these were rejected. Following the creation of FFE, Qdos lost its contract with ATG.

Harrison said the new arrangement marked a relationship that had “come full circle”.

“We’re looking forward to doing brand new shows for them and putting some existing shows, with some of our big stars and big productions, into those huge theatres. We [Qdos] have great relationships with major independent venues so there’s no reason why we can’t have a great relationship with ATG,” Harrison told The Stage.

“It’s a great time for pantomime, it’s very strong at the moment. We’ve had a terrific year, and of course the cherry on top of the cake has been an outstanding success at the Palladium, which I think has really turned eyes on to what pantomime means in the industry,” he added.

Harrison went on to say that while the new partnership constitutes a dominance of sorts in the pantomime market, there was still “room for all out there”.

“We’ve got to work towards delivering the best possible attractions at the busiest time of the year,” he added.

Qdos chairman Nick Thomas added: “We are delighted to be working with ATG, and look forward to introducing our pantomime productions and an array of star headliners to the ATG circuit.”

Panter and Squire’s departure from ATG last year kicked off a series of reshuffles, with the company focusing increasingly on its expansion into the global market – with key hires and acquisitions in the US. In the UK, a programme of compulsory redundancies was launched in November, as Cornell looked to free up funding for the company’s future growth.

Put a little more mascara on!

Andrew Ryan is currently playing Sarah The Cook in the Birmingham Hippodrome Pantomime “Dick Whittington””.

Here’s a stop frame video of his make up technique. Andrew generally goes out between shows, so he’ll be doing this twice a day from the Middle of December to the end of January!