Festival 2021

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Deprived of its usual venue at the Frazer Theatre, this year’s Nidderdale Festival took the unusual step of travelling 60 miles north to Saltburn-by-the-Sea on 10 June where it joined forces with the Saltburn Festival for two nights of drama at Saltburn Comunity Theatre adjudicated by Cherry Stephenson. The two Woodlands productions, Just Passing by Colin and Mary Crowther, directed with great flair and aplomb by Anne-Marie Ledson, and Inside Out – Love in a Covid Climate by our own Alison Gilmour, co-directed by Alison and Pippa Bogle, faced stiff competition from Harrogate Dramatic Society who performed a newly written comedy of manners by Alan Harwood with flair and comic timing. In the event, Woodlands won an astonishing nine out of the ten trophies on offer.

Just Passing is an enigmatic and elegiac play in which a woman communes with a man on a lonely hillside bench. We gradually intuit that he represents her husband who has been on life support since a car accident. Julie James and Howard Atkin negotiated the two long and demanding roles with great feeling and nuance, ably assisted by Mark Fuller as the man’s nurse. The production garnered the best actor trophy for Howard Atkin as well as the David Crumpton Memorial Cup (the adjudicator’s discretionary award).

Inside Out takes place in a Northern town during a Covid pandemic summer. Set on and around a bench (the same magnificent centrepiece engineered by Howard Atkin for Just Passing) the play focuses on characters forced to take their lives outside to a nearby park and gardens and navigate new ways of relating to each other. It is a story of relationship ruptures, new attachments and unusual friendships. The play garnered a magnificent seven trophies, including the Eva Housman Trophy for best production, the Charles Smith Trophy for best producer and the Michael Wade Memorial Cup for artistic originality. To our great delight the Alan Lyons Cup for best actress was won by Kay Manby for her splendidly observed portrayal of Carol, the on-line dating divorcee, and the Philip Hickson Memorial Cup for Acting was won by the two teenage members of cast, Rory Moore and Ben Gilmour.

Alison deserves special praise for deputising in her own play as Pauline, the eccentric bird watcher, a part originally earmarked for Pat Bickerton who was sadly forced to withdraw from the production on medical grounds. Pippa Bogle took on the mantle of co-director half way through the rehearsal process and proved an invaluable source of insight.


The cast and crew of Inside Out excitedly looked forward to their return to Saltburn on the weekend of 10/11 July to contest the above event. They faced stiff competition from the four other semi finalists, Progressive Players from Gateshead, Nantwich Players from Cheshire, Playing Up from County Durham and the resident group, Saltburn ’53. The magnificent Inside Out crew – Anne-Marie and Keith Ledson (sound and lighting) and Estella Ramsden (stage manager) were augmented by Julie James as prompt and make-up assistant and the production played to a well-attended, socially distanced house on the Sunday afternoon.

Despite the pressure of the occasion there was no slippage in performance standards and the adjudicator, Robert Meadows, was full of praise for the acting, staging and overall flow of the production. He referred to the Chekhovian feel of both the writing and stage presentation. Although Inside Out was not able to secure a first ever English Final appearance for Woodlands (the winners at Saltburn were Progressive Players with an enjoyable adaptation of ‘The Signalman’, the famous Dickens short story) our production garnered an impressive score of 81 and Alison won the TSB Silver Salver for best actress (a fitting reward for her tireless creative leadership). Equally importantly our two appearances at Saltburn made us new friends and greatly enhanced our reputation.

Ian Clarke