The History Of Brampton Players
Brampton Players have kept theatre alive in the town for over seventy-five years. We usually stage several productions a year, including plays, musicals, pantomimes, variety shows and a drama festival including plays from other amateur groups in the area. Membership is open to all. New members, young and old, are always welcome – you can find details and an online membership form (see the menu on the left) here on this site. Since 1990 we have been presenting open-air productions of Shakespeare’s plays in the spectacular setting of Lanercost Priory.
THE STORY OF BRAMPTON PLAYERS
Brampton Playhouse opened in October 1936 but the Brampton Players actually started in 1933. At that time performances were given in St.Martin’s Hall, in Penrith Playhouse and at local drama festivals. The chance for the Players to have a theatre of their own came in 1936 when the Primitive Methodists united with the Wesleyans to form the Methodist Church we know today. The Primitive Methodists’ chapel at Moatside, originally built in 1878 for £1,500, was then redundant and was offered for sale. The Players offered to buy it to convert it into a theatre and a price of £465 was eventually agreed.
Six local enthusiasts formed a limited company to raise the necessary funds: Lord and Lady Henley, their son M.F.Eden, local solicitor H.S.Cartmell, together with W.S.Jackson, who owned a large outfitter’s shop in the town, and Stanley Walton, a local farmer and land agent. A Carlisle architect, H.Irving Graham, drew up plans and local builders and electricians were soon hard at work converting the chapel into a fully functioning theatre. The total cost – including the purchase price – was just £1,200. The first main stage curtains were a gift from Lady Henley and the first tip-up seats came from the Empire Theatre in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
The Grand Opening Night took place on October 17th 1936 and included a recital by Madame Adela Fachiri, a violinist of international repute, and Tom Clough, a talented local player of the Northumbrian pipes. Between 1936 and 1939 about three plays a year were produced by Brampton Players themselves and their new Playhouse also hosted visiting performances by other groups from Penrith, Cockermouth and Workington.
The Second World War brought other priorities and for most of this time the Playhouse was handed over, rent free, to the Y.M.C.A.to be used as a canteen for the troops – but the Players returned after the war and were soon producing three or four productions a year. New lighting and sound equipment were installed and on 15th May 1974, with the generous help of a benefactor who remains anonymous to this day, Brampton Players were at last able to purchase the Playhouse from original company set up in 1936.
The story of Brampton Players must be regarded as incomplete without an appreciation of the active influence of Pat Julier.
Brampton Players today. In recent times Brampton Players have gone from strength to strength, though we are always on the lookout for more members. The repertoire of straight plays has broadened to include classical playwrights such as Shakespeare, Moliere, and Sheridan and challenging modern dramatists like Brecht, Stoppard, and Dario Fo, as well as popular works by writers like Alan Ayckbourn or Ray Cooney. There are usually several productions a year. Even lavish musicals like ‘Carousel’, ‘Calamity Jane’ and ‘Blitz’ have been squeezed onto the Brampton stage and a traditional family pantomime is usually part of each year’s programme.
Since 1990 the Players have also been staging outdoor productions of Shakespeare’s plays in the spectacular setting of Lanercost Priory, just three miles out of Brampton.
If you’d like to join us as an active member – acting or directing on stage, helping with costumes, scenery, or lighting backstage, or greeting audiences front-of-house – you will be assured of a very hearty welcome.