Summer Panto Continued

Panto In The Park. July 2018
Pumpkin Pantos in association with Camberley Theatre present
 ‘Panto in the Park: Red Riding Hood’ this summer!
Panto in the Park

Bursting with brilliant songs, jam-packed with jokes and crammed full of colourful characters, Red Riding Hood is a panto so funny you’ll be howling with laughter!

This performance takes place at 1pm at London Road Recreation Ground, Camberley, GU15 3HB on Saturday 28th July.



Here is a link to the show trailer: 



Summer Panto is on the way!

Half-term is over, and all over the UK Children’s shows kept families entertained during the week’s break. I enjoyed seeing the Stiles & Drewe “Goldilocks” at The Kenneth More Theatre, Ilford- great fun for all and one hour of sing-a-long entertainment with a happy family of porridge eating bears, A lumberjack and his fiesty daughter Goldi, perfect for the holidays.

Coming this summer- not one, not two but THREE pantomimes at Blackpool’s North Pier Theatre- Two for children and one strictly Adults only! Here’s the information:


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Gerry Graham Pantos & Productions bring some pantomime fun to Blackpool’s North Pier Theatre during August 2018, With not 1, not 2 but 3 Pantomimes!

For the family they present Cinderella every Wednesday in August at 2.30pm & 7pm & You are invited to join them for a up-to-date family friendly presentation of this well-loved, heart-warming rags to riches romance, with loads of comedy, pathos, music and audience participation, it’s a show not to be missed!

Then every Thursday in august at 2.30pm more family fun as they present Dick Whittington & his cat! Join them as Dick Whittington searches for Fame & Fortune, Will He find it or will Queen Rat & Capt Pigseye stop him? There’s only one way to find out – Book your tickets today!

Then for the big boys and girls who are 18 and over every Thursday in august at 8pm they present- Carry On Whittington, The Confessions of a Country Boy…
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It’s a bawdy pantomime only for big boys and girls over the age of 18!
Join the very raunchy team for a night of hilarious fun – it’s the perfect night for Hen parties, couples or just a group of friends!Once again – Carry On Whittington is a STRICTLY ADULTS ONLY EVENT.

An annual Holiday treat in Weymouth is “Pirates Of The Pavilion”, presented by Made To Measure Pantomimes, the company that presents the Panto each year at The Pavilion Theatre.


Pirates of the Pavilion is brought to you by the Producers of the Award Nominated Christmas Pantomime- SLEEPING BEAUTY, Made-to-Measure Pantomimes!

Pirates of the Pavilion is set to return in July with a brand new Jurassic adventure that’s guaranteed to have your ROARING with laughter!!

Featuring ‘REAL’ dinosaurs, including an eye-popping Flying Pterydactyl!

Pirates Of The Pavilion runs from Monday 30th July 2018 to Wednesday 29th August 2018

The Pavilion theatre tells us that they will be running a Relaxed Performance on Thursday 31 July at 1pm to accommodate people on the autism spectrum, as well as those with communication difficulties and learning disabilities.

Slight changes will be made to the show itself; any loud noises or strobe lighting will be omitted, the auditorium lights will be left on and audience members will be free to leave the theatre and spend some time in a quiet area set up in the foyer at any point during the performance. However, the fun, slapstick, comedy, music and laughter will stay exactly the same!

Bookings for the relaxed performance can only be made via the Box Office, call between the hours of 9:30am – 6pm or call  01305 783 225.




PETER BYRNE 1928-2018


Peter Byrne died this week at Denville Hall,at the age of ninety,  where he has been a resident for the past five years. Peter was born in East Ham in 1928, and trained at The Italia Conti school in Clapham.

His Father had been a musician, and at one time was a member of Jack Hylton’s Band.

He started his career with The famous Will Hay Company- “although by that time unfortunately he’d finished making films by then”- and appeared at the age of sixteen in the Royal Command Performance in sketches with Nervo & Knox and The Crazy Gang. He recalled “The next day there were photographs of us in all the papers, with The King, The Queen and Churchill watching us!”


Peter became one of the most famous faces on television when he joined Jack Warner in the BBC Television series “Dixon Of Dock Green” as PC Andy Crawford. This was in 1955 and he remained with it for 430 episodes, over twenty years until 1976.

Peter had previously appeared in the forerunner to “Dixon” not in the film of that name, but in the stage version in the West End with Warren Mitchell.

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When I was growing up Saturday night was “Dixon” night on BBC TV. It began with a blue lamp and the familiar face of Jack Warner bidding us “Evenin’ All” as a new episode took place- twenty six years of BBC Drama, with Peter Byrne as “The Housewive’s Choice” as the matinee idol looking Andy Crawford. My Mother was a huge fan. When I appeared in pantomime with Peter my parents made the long trip from Swansea to Stevenage to see me. It was more for my Mother to meet Andy Crawford. It was a the highlight of my career in her eyes. I was working with her hero!


Peter was a leading figure in the world of Pantomime. For a while he was director of productions( 1965-66) for the Bournemouth Theatre Company, situated opposite the Pavilion Theatre, alongside his friend Paul Elliott, a fellow actor he had met on the set of “Dixon”.


Not long afterwards Paul persuaded Peter to join him in setting up a pantomime company. It was called E&B.The name stood for Elliott & Byrne.

Peter assisted Paul in running the company, performing in pantomimes and directing pantomimes. Soon they began to increase the number of venues, and Peter began to realise that he truly preferred being onstage and directing to being a part of the business side of this blossoming Pantomime Dynasty. Peter continued to work for E&B, the name remained, but he bowed out of management. Paul went on to expand E&B until it presented thirty pantomimes each year- the story of this will be revealed when Paul Elliott publishes his book this Autumn.

Peter Robbins and I were so fortunate to have Peter Byrne as our Director and as our “Daddy”- Baron Hardup when we did our very first E&B Panto “Cinderella” at Stevenage. The one where my Mother travelled many hours to see, and never forgot meeting Peter.


Peter directed and starred in that very first E&B panto in 1983 at The Gordon Craig in Stevenage..Peter (Byrne) would remind us, every time we met over the years of how  that we tried to bribehim- our director-by taking him to tea at The Ritz , to see if we could do a boudoir scene we had been performing the previous two years. It must have been a good tea- we got a boudoir scene, and a further twenty nine odd years of scenes that followed!


Peter was a very fast director. He soon got the show blocked and rehearsed and on- but he never left the wings. After an exit as Baron he would remain watching from the wings for every show- he loved every part of the stage experience. It really was his life.


He appeared and directed many pantos- both in the UK and for Paul Elliott in Vancouver and in Victoria BC.

He gave an interview at Bradford Alhambra for The Telegraph & Argus when he was Directing and appearing in panto. It was gloriously tongue in cheek.

“Oh yes, I’ve done all the classical roles.. Abanazar.. King Rat.. you name it!”

As Director he held the talents of Ronnie Corbett, Jimmy Cricket and Ted Rogers as the finest in Pantoland.

On stage Peter appeared in countless National Tours and was frequently in The West End. He appeared in “The Blue Lamp” onstage, as well as Boeing Boeing, The Unexpected Guest, Deadly Nightcap,Caste,  There’s A Girl In My Soup, Double Edge, Witness For The Prosecution, Move Over Mrs Markham and At The St Martin’s Theatre in The Mousetrap.

I once met him in St Martin’s Lane and we chatted about the play he had just re-joined. I said I thought he wasn’t going to do it again. “Ah yes, “ he said, “But we need an extension on the house!”. In truth wild horses wouldn’t have dragged him away from live theatre. It was everything to him.

Peter Byrne appeared in film, from Reach For The Sky (1956) to Watch Your Stern, Raising The Wind, The Iron Maiden and Carry On Cabby (1963) He was continuously working.


Television appearances, apart from “Dixon” included Holby City, Doctors, Blakes 7, Bluebirds and playing Derek, The Gentleman Caller in Nellie Boswell’s life in “Bread” for three years.



He was in Paul Elliott’s “Run For Your Wife” in The West End, and when Paul wrote a comedy “There’s No Place Like A Home” set in the mythical “STollberg Hall”, Peter joined a cast of celebrities and “old Pro” performers that changed as the play toured. He appeared alongside the likes of Gorden Kaye, Brian Godfrey,Barry Howard, Sue Hodge, Jan Hunt,  Joan Savage, Don McLean, Ken Morley, Geoffrey Davies and Brian Cant. Even the voice of Jeffrey Archer was heard in this madcap comedy set in an actors retirement home.


Peter entered Denville Hall several years ago. He kept in touch with his close friends and family, and saw a lot of both Paul and Linda Elliott. I relished running into Peter- at The Mousetrap, or a great evening catching up at The Mill Sonning, and one very glorious afternoon at Paul’s Birthday Party.


All afternoon I sat on the sofa with Peter and was regaled with his stories and anecdotes about life in the film and TV studios. Stories of taking short cuts thru the studios crossing through the set of “Wicked Lady” in Gainsborough Studios, stories of Margaret Lockwood, James Mason, Patricia Roc, and the film stars of the 1940’s and 1950’s that he met and worked with. Sheer joy. What a wonderful afternoon that was! Sadly, it was the last time I saw Peter Byrne. THAT is how I will remember him. A true man of the Theatre. A joy. Bless you Peter Byrne, and love and thoughts to family and his many friends.






Qdos- Snow White at The Palladium!


Qdos presents a stellar cast in “SNOW WHITE” at The London Palladium this December.

Dawn French makes her Pantomime Debut as the very Wicked Queen, alongside Julian Clary as The Spirit Of The Mirror, Nigel Havers as The Understudy, Paul Zerdin as Muddles along with his side-kick Sam, and Gary Wilmot as Dame Crumble! Vincent & Flavia will be bringing some magic along to the proceedings- what a great cast! Can’t wait to see it!

The past two years of Qdos Pantomime at The Palladium have been huge sucesses, with Qdos winning The Olivier Award for “Dick Whittington” recently. This coming Pantomime will be the apple in The Palladium’s eye as it takes its place in the home of London Panto!

Molly Limpet’s Dame & Sisters Exhibition

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I had a message this week to invite me to a day of Panto Dame and Ugly Sister costumes on display- The collection of Molly Limpet’s Costume Emporium in Sheffield.

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The date is Saturday June 23rd, and although a Ticket Event (Cindrella obviously won’t be going!) it is free. The Exhibition is from the 800 or so costumes that Molly Limpet’s has in stock, and will also involve Dame Costumes for sale, and a Dame’s “Marketplace”.

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It sounds great fun, sadly I can’t be there as I will be taking a Pantomime Class at the London NODA  Summer School that day. If you’d like more information here’s the link to the website page:

The Great British Pantomime Awards 2018


The 2018 Great British Pantomime Awards were held at The New Wimbledon Theatre,on Sunday 15th April. A  very rare opportunity for us Panto folk to gather, and to have fun and celebrate Pantomime. For far too long Pantomime has been regarded as a poor relation to other art forms, and this is despite the enormous popularity of these shows, and the revenue it brings in to theatres throughout the UK.

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The GBPA was founded by Daniel Dawson and Sam Munday-Webb. A good while back Daniel began visiting as many pantomimes as he could in a season, and sent me information on them for this IBY website. This turned into detailed blogs, and eventually grew to become a website of its own. Of this year’s event Sam said: “Pantomime has never been in a better place, and we are here to embrace that and improve its position and its acknowledgement further”


Daniel Dawson & Sam Munday-Webb

The ceremony was hosted by Christopher Biggins. A master of ceremonies and a veteran Panto Dame- Chris was instrumental in linking and running the entire show. He will be appearing in Panto this year at The Alhambra Bradford. Chris was the perfect MC for an evening where the audience is more than likely to join in and respond! He handled it with his usual superb flair and humour. His retirement from panto has been held off until another year, so Bradford & Billy Pearce will see a lot of him this season!

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Biggins at the Beanstalk Podium.

Very rarely do we get to meet other pantomime performers- sometimes we finish early enough to go and see a few pantomimes, but this very close knit community of artistes turns into one huge extended family when we are gathered! The atmosphere at Wimbledon this evening was one of Goodwill, Fun and family. Yes the Awards are great to have recognition, but it really was the least cut-throat of ceremonies. We were all revelling in the warmth and goodwill of the entire night. it started on the way in, with photos and fun! Here are a few! Too many to name everyone, so here are just a few-but I’ve tried to make a list of just those I met a little later on!

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Me- Nigel Ellacott joining Susie McKenna and Andrew Ryan

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The Twins & Paul Hendy & Emily Wood

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the Grumbleweeds and Paul Chuckle. Andrew Fettes & Verona Chard

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Graham Cole & Mark “The Beast” Labbett

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Roy & Debbie Hudd, Anita Harris, Gary & Yvonne Hind and Eric & Hannah Potts


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Graham Hoadley & Jack Land Noble.  Lee Redwood & The Weymouth Panto Company

The show began with a number from Olivia Birchenough as Panto Fairy with the sixteen strong Ensemble.Great to have a seven piece band too- and as with all these “one Off” events, all praise to the technical, musical and physical people concerned- you really can’t rehearse a show like this -and this show ran beautifully.

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The Ensemble. Twist & Pulse in action.

During the evening there were performances from Twist & Pulse, Ronan Parke, Kieran & Sarah, Doreen Tipton, La Voix and Gary Wilmot. Gary reprised his incredible “Tube” song, an amazing feat of memory, penned by himself as performed at the London Palladium “Dick Whittington” Pantomime.

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Gary Wilmot, La Voix and Wendy Peters

It was an evening of presenters, nominees and happy Panto people!

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Richard Ede, Nigel, Andrew Ryan & Ben Roddy and with Damian Williams

Here’s a selection of Nominations:

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Ben Stock, Biggins & Peter Duncan.

The Winners In Full:

The Lifetime Achievement award was given jointly to Nick Thomas of Qdos and to veteran performer and recent Dame- Roy Hudd.


Roy Hudd and Debbie Flitcroft

Roy paid tribute to Pantomime, and to his recent historic productions- the first pantomimes to be staged at his beloved Wilton’s Music Hall in The East End. He played Sarah The Cook and Mother Goose there, Directed by his wife, Debbie Flitcroft. Roy started as a Butlin’s Redcoat, and years later after starring at the Palace Theatre, He returned as Midnight Cabaret at Butlins. I was his support act! A truly amazing man and keeper of the Music Hall Keys of the UK.


Nick Thomas seen here with a few of his puppet collections of historical and legendary figures. From Thunderbirds to The Diddy Men, he has collected these and an enormous archive of Variety and Pantomime posters. He received his award for his contribution to Pantomime.

Qdos scooped 14 Awards in total during the evening.

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Doreen Tipton presenting. Nigel Ellacott & Andrew Ryan Presenting.

Here are the Awards:

Best Ensemble: Hexagon Reading, Peter Pan.

Best Speciality Act: The Timbuktu Tumblers. Peter Pan, Newcastle Theatre Royal.

Best Song Sheet: Matt Slack. Cinderella, Birmingham Hippodrome.

Best Fairy: Elaine C Smith. Sleeping Beauty . Glasgow Kings Theatre.


Best Female Baddie. Elaine Paige Queen Rat. London Palladium.


Best Comic. Danny Adams. Peter Pan. Newcastle Theatre Royal.

Best Male Lead: Charlie Stemp : Palladium Dick Whittington.

(Charlie is currently appearing in “Hello Dolly” on Broadway.)

Best Double Act: The Chuckle Brothers. Snow White. Mayflower Southampton.

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Best Director: Chris Nelson. Snow White  Aylesbury.

Best Male Baddie. Lawrence Boothman: Robin Hood. Loughborough Town Hall.

Best Supporting Male: Richard David Caine. Snow White. Worthing Pavilion.

Best Leading Female: Faith Omole. Jack & The Beanstalk. Lyric Hammersmith.

Ben Roddy: Best Dame.Peter Pan. Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury


Best Ugly Sisters: Ben Stock & Neal Wright. Cinderella. Milton Keynes.


Best Script: Alan McHugh & David McGillvray. Dick Whittington. London Palladium.

Best Choreography: Twist & Pulse. Jack & The Beanstalk Stevenage Gordon Craig.


Best Lighting: Ben Cracknell: Cinderella. Birmingham Hippodrome.

Best Costume Design: Paul Shriek, Customs House, South Shields.

Best Musical Supervision: Robert Hyman & Trish Cook. Rapunzel. Stratford East Th Royal.

Best Special Effects: Twins FX. The Flying London Bus. Palladium Dick Whittington.

Best Staging/Set: Morgan Brind. Beauty & The Beast. Derby Arena.

Best Newcomer: Al Murray, Jack & The Beanstalk, Wimbledon


Overall prizes went to Salisbury Playhouse Jack & The Beanstalk (Under 750 seats category)


The Sheffield Lyceum’s “Mother Goose” (750-1,000 seat category)

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Panto Of The Year: The London Palladium “Dick Whittington” (1,500 seats & Above).

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Sam Munday Webb wrote:

A special moment last night was talking to Nigel Ellacott, where I spoke about an email I sent him circa 2005 about how I was going to start something called the “Great British Pantomime Awards”.

 Simon Jackson Lyall was responsible for the technical sound production side of the Awards Event, with Chris Firth Stage Manager, Jason Salvin on lights and Gareth Stevens called the show. The Musicians were led by Dan Boardman, with Terence Penk, Jamie Wilkins, Steve Gilbertson, Drew Cowburn, Greg Nicholas and Sam Sankey.


It took a while but the seed was planted: Many years later, what a truly marvellous thing has been created, thanks to everyone for all their overwhelming support, trust and passion”

 A great fun event, and one we know will return next year. It was great catching up with mates in Pantoland stretching back over the years, and meeting some new. From my days starting out in Panto my oldest chums would be the legendary Jan Hunt, Principal Boy & Pantomime Fairy, (we go back to the early 1980’s) and to the wonderful Susie Mckenna- Principal Boy and the Doyen of Hackney Pantomimes, my mate Vicki Michelle, and  Laura Taylor now with Imagine Theatre, and the lady who looked after my Pantomime Roadshow in The Cadbury Days of E&B Productions!

A clutch of Dames to chat with, from Damian Williams, Ben Roddy, Andrew Ryan, Richard Ede, Biggins of course, Graham Hoadley & Jack Land Noble,David Robbins,  Lee Redwood, Phillip Meeks, David Phipps-Davis, Roy Hudd, Ben Stock & Neal Wright, Leon Craig,and many many more I never got to touch base with in the throng!

Here’s a small list from memory of those I met up with during the evening. Yes- I did get about!

Suzi McKenna, Chris Jarvis, Damian Williams, Ben Roddy

David Robbins, David Lloyd Jones, Martin Dodd, Elaine C Smith

Peter Duncan., Graham hodley and Jack Land Noble, Philip Meaks

Jamie Morris and Tarot Joseph, Barrie Burnett, Sarah Whitlock

Leon Mellor, Gary Wilmot, Graham Cole, Roy Hudd and Debbie

Chris Biggins, Lee Redwood, Leon Craig, Ben miller, Joe Purdy

Laura Taylor, Gary &Yvonne Hind, The Twins, Gary & Paul,

Vicki Michelle, Jan Hunt, Anita Harris & Mike, Paul Chuckle

Grumbleweeds- James & Robin, Al Murray-The Pub Landlord

Richard Ede, Chris Jordan and Natasha Grey

Paul Henry & Emily Wood, Wendy Peters, Anthony England

Ben Stock & Neal Wright, David Phipps Davis.

Sadly there were those who were not with us to celebrate. The GBPA had an “In Memorium” section, and some dear friends and colleagues were shown on screen, including

Bruce Forsyth   Duggie Chapman

Carole lee Scott   Roy Barraclough

Bella Emberg Bill Maynard

And Ashleigh Butler’s beautiful dog, Pudsey.

A great Night, and again, thanks to all those who organised and planned and executed a Swell Party!


Qdos Wins Olivier Panto Award


This year’s Olivier award for Best Entertainment & Family production went to the Qdos London Palladium pantomime, “Dick Whittington”.



The Ensemble with Gary Wilmot, Charlie Stemp and Emma Williams in “Dick Whittington” 2017-2018 Pantomime

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Nick Thomas, Chairman of Qdos and Michael Harrison, Managing Director of Pantomimes received the award at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday evening. Michael Harrison said “Winning the Olivier Award signalled recognition from the West End theatre industry that Pantomime could be “Something special”.

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Nick Thomas & Michael Harrison


Nick Thomas added it was important to celebrate the genre vecause pantomime is normally a child’s first experience of theatre.

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Two years ago Qdos revived the Palladium tradition for being the home of West End Pantomime. Prior to their first panto- “Cinderella” the last panto to be seen at this venue was “Babes In The Wood” with John Inman and  Barbara Windsor leading the company.


This panto, Dick Whittington brought back Julian Clary, Paul Zerdin and Nigel Havers, adding the West End Queen of Musicals, Elaine Paige as Queen Rat, Gary Wilmot as Sarah The Cook and the stars of “Half A Sixpence” Charlie Stemp and Emma Williams as Dick and Alice.

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Huge congratulations to the production team, The creatives encompassing costume design and execution, musical arrangements and composition, lighting, effects, sound, direction, choreography, casting, and of course the cast of this fabulous panto at the London Palladium.

This award for Pantomime has proved it is not the poor relation of The Arts, and that it is a vital and ever evolving art form unique to the British Isles! Hoorah for Panto!

Here on the IBY site we have articles on the history of those Palladium Pantomimes of the past- In Articles: The Palladium Pantomimes,

And our recent Spotlight on Gary Wilmot.