At a recent Special General Meeting of the members of the Ripon Rowel Players the decision was regretfully taken to wind up the society, which will mean the end of the society’s history of presenting live theatre in Ripon.
Our Rowel Players dramatic society was started in 1948. At first the Rowel Players presented plays at the Opera House Theatre (now Sigma Antiques) on Water Skellgate.
After that venue closed as a theatre, we played in a great variety of places including the Claro Theatre at the Army camp, Lightwater Valley, local schools, Ripon Leisure Centre, Allhallowgate Methodist Church Hall – indeed, anywhere else which offered suitable facilities both on stage and backstage.
Our choice of plays has been wide and we have presented plays in modern dress and plays in historic costume – both comedy and tragedy in pieces long and short.
Our many memorable productions include our Ruby Anniversary production of Dear Octopus in 1989 and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible in 2003.
We presented Brassed Off in co-operation with Ripon City Band and we danced in Alan Bennett’s Habeas Corpus, and we did justice to Terry Pratchett in Wyrd Sisters.
Our most recent large cast play at Ripon Leisure Centre was a spirited production of ‘Allo ‘Allo in 2011 and our final production was Quartet in the Ripon Spa Hotel ballroom in 2013.
In 1986, to celebrate Ripon 1100, we had a bumper year presenting an original play about St Wilfrid on the market square and at Fountains Abbey as well as a masque-type entertainment Robin Hood and ye Curtal Friar in Fountains Abbey when our audience included the Queen Mother.
Our fame has gone beyond the boundaries of the city and our activities have included being invited to present the entertainment at the National Opera and Dramatic Association’s conference in Bridlington. We were also asked by the Post Office to present a short play on an improvised stage on Ripon Market Place to advertise the new Doomsday Book 900th anniversary postage stamp.
We have been regular participants in one-act play festivals, particularly in our local Nidderdale Festival and have come home with an armful of silver cups – both for acting and presentation on many occasions.
Most of these plays were also given performances in Ripon for the benefit of our local audiences. Our junior section has also had regular successes in the same competition.
Our lively floats have taken part in and won St Wilfrid’s Day processions and for the last four years we have presented murder mysteries at various venues throughout the area, which have been enthusiastically received.
However, the years roll on, and our membership has dwindled. Lifestyles and forms of entertainment have changed and so we think the time has come to lower the final curtain.
We have been a happy band of troupers and have many shared memories. You will see here a few pictures from our large photographic archive, which may remind you of some of the productions you have enjoyed over the years, as well as a couple of our floats in the St Wilfrid’s Procession from the Gazette’s archives.
We are storing all photographic and paper items in safe custody in case they are required in the future and if you have any queries about the past or matters arising out of this article, please contact Marguerite Moss on 01765 692207.
We would like to thank all who have been members of our group both on stage and back stage, all our supportive patrons but – most of all – the public who have come to our performances and supported us. We thank you all.