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Afternoon Tea with the Calendar Girls

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16 May 2014

“Are you going to sing Jerusalem again?” asked my husband as I abandoned him for the weekend to drive the 240 miles north to Harrogate. “Probably”, I replied, grinning.

And so, this weekend, a journey that, for some of us has lasted two years, came to a conclusion with “Afternoon Tea with the Calendar Girls”, a chance for all us amateurs to meet not only fellow amdrammers that we have been swapping direction notes with on Facebook, but also the playwright, Tim Firth, and the girls who inspired the film that inspired the play that we flocked in our hundreds to put on stage.

Approaching the Yorkshire Showground and Pavilions of Harrogate, we found ourselves following a farm truck loaded with animals. We wondered if this was “Jeff Randall & his Tumbling Sheepdogs”, but it turned out to be a load of sheep – the driver turned into Sainsbury’s along with most of the traffic.

Once inside the Pavilions, we mingled with over 200 fellow Calendar Girls (and a handful of Boys), before taking our seats for tea. And a very nice tea it was too, although we had to guard the last few cakes from some overzealous clearing up by the staff.

Having eaten our fill, we mingled for a while; Tim had brought his mother along, and while we clustered round waiting for autographs and photos, she regaled us with stories of her own experience playing Jessie at her local drama group.

The original girls then recalled the night they had the photoshoot for the calendar that set the whole thing rolling. I’m sure they’ve told the story many times over the years, but they still managed to have us in fits of laughter. Tim told us of the play’s amateur success both in the UK and around the world, and his surprise that many of us had made our own calendars – although perhaps the girls from the Bolivian group had slightly missed the point…

Then came the awards, 3 nominated by us, and 2 chosen by Tim & the Girls. The results were an equal mix of laughter and tears: from two ladies having gone the extra mile to put on their productions and raise funds for LLR, and the group performing virtually open air on top of Bodmin Moor, with poetry readings in the scene changes, to the “Annie” award collected by the husband of a leukaemia sufferer who had been determined to be in her local production, and managed two performances before she had to drop out. She lost her fight only a few weeks ago. Finally, the John Baker award was given to 14 year old Rebecca, who told us how she has beaten leukaemia three times. A very deserving winner of this annual award.

And then it was almost time to say goodbye. Cathy Gilman announced that our productions had raised at least £100,000 for LLR, although a final total will be difficult to quantify as many donations have come in without necessarily being tagged as Calendar Girls related.

All in all, a wonderful afternoon, and the perfect way to finish our Calendar Girls journey. Until the next amateur release…

And Jerusalem? Yes, of course we sang it!



Great blog, Alison and fantastic pictures. Looks like it was a great day all round!


Fantastic blog Alison!  Great to finally meet you and , very happy to hear how much you enjoyed the afternoon.

Look forward to speaking with you soon.

Rebecca x


Really great blog Alison....well done.....glad the day was a success.

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