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Ralph Reader

History of Northallerton Gang Show

‘It’s all Buxton’s fault’

Scout groups in Northallerton have produced some small scout shows to boost the coffers of their scout groups for many years. In fact since the idea of Gang Show’s laid down by Ralph all those 75+ years ago. Groups like Northallerton, Bedale and Great Smeaton (who still produce a show in Great Smeaton village hall). No one can recall a Gang Show produced on the scale of the current incarnation of Northallerton Gang Show.

The current production team of Brown, Brown and Conroy (earlier with Allen) had all been involved in cast and crew of Middlesbrough Gang Show from 1990 onwards and have developed a love for the ideals of Gang Show from an early age. All have been members of scouting or guiding (not Steven) from the age of 8, and all have not had a break in service since that time. Their involvement in the creation of Northallerton Gang Show takes us back to April 2003 (imagine odd Scooby doo going back in time effect... Doodododododod)

In a waiting room in the Friarage hospital, an excited staff nurse, sitting with his manager wait to meet two gentlemen from scouting in Northallerton to discuss the creation of a scout group for children with special needs – Scoutlink. Steven Brown (the excited staff nurse) detailed his vision for Scoutlink to Steve Buxton and Simon Hickling, who without a moment hesitation loved the idea and ran with it! So the admiration, friendship and support between these people started and grew to what it is today. Throwing herself into the fray with Scoutlink was Helen Brown nee Forrest (Steven’s then fiancée). They endeavoured to get Scoutlink involved in every possible district activity and therefore ended up running some! I offer to you my noble readers the Christmas carol service at the new life Baptist church, Northallerton 6th December 2004.

Steve and Steven had discovered that they each have a love of campfires (Steve and Helen have a mutual and rather worrying love of fire). They had talked about Gang Shows and running a show in Northallerton, but the logistics and time and effort needed to really do it justice where not even considered when Steve Buxton said in the new life Baptist church “this would be a good venue for a Gang Show!”. The converted cinema has a wonderful large stage and some backstage rooms, but no theatrical staging. So that idea was stopping in it tracks, with the spark of realisation that the Hambleton forum had a stage, and Scoutlink meet in the Hambleton forum... Therefore... Meetings with the district commission, Steve and Steven... Northallerton Gang Show is a go as long as funding and support from young people can be achieved.

Steven Brown then told Helen (his wife)! Steve Buxton told Helen (his wife! – how weird – SB and HB and SB and HB – spooky darlings) and well sensibly ‘could it be done’ was asked?

A date was set November 2005. A production team was put together by Steven, with Helen and Rachel Conroy assistant producers and choreographers and Matthew Allen as assistant producer (all from Middlesbrough). A team of willing volunteers join up from local scout groups and friends in Middlesbrough. Then we heard of a man who had been involved in the London show... With Ralph himself!

We meet Reg and Mary Mitchell at an arranged meeting of the Gang Show executive team early 2005. A nicer couple you could not meet and they are from the south! Reg had reams of experience of helping backstage with Ralph in his shows and are countless other show in ‘town’ as he says, and Mary has been secretary, cast registrar and countless other roles to the shows. There talent, expertise and confidence in the production team was the spark needed to run with the concept right to its conclusion that November.

So audition day arrived. An unknown entity, how many would come? Eventually we had a cast of 35 and a back stage crew of 20, all made up of explorers and their leaders. Then over the next 15 weeks rehearsals, twice weekly, a camp in Carlton and effort of 110% into everything the cast and drew where ready for the show. There were problems along the way but the support from all around and the teamwork in place made the troubles easier to bare.

The show was a huge success, acclaimed by the mayor of Northallerton as a stunning display of the enthusiasm and brilliance of Northallerton’s children, a sentiment echo by the near 1500 people who came to see the show; including the county Gang Show assessor... Who was impressed by the show; by the children’s confidence and ability to remember so much? But was worried about the drag number – some looked a little too convincing as a girl, and our proscenium arch wasn’t curved enough!

Highlights of that show – Steve Buxton in a pantomime dame costume! Chris Armstrong in everything he did, Charles Marshal and his Sibelius voice and a cast who had been put through so much over the rehearsal time... Changes, tears, laughter... The end product was amazing. From a throw away comment in December 2004 to produce the Northallerton Gang Show 2005 11 months later, was an immense feat. All who where involved should be mightily proud of that achievement.

So with a bank of costumes, a store of stage dressings and children asking “is there another one next year!” The question was asked by Northallerton district executive – can you run another in 2007? Which the production team did. This time with a 60 strong cast and the same great Explorers back stage. But with more structure to the organisation – Reg leading the executive team and Steven leading the production team, November 2007 Northallerton Gang Show 2 took to the stage.

Highlights of that show included the ripping off of the boys trousers in the Eurovision number, Steven and Matthew bad memories, and the smiles from all the cast. The show again attracted very positive comments from the near 1800 people (full houses most shows) who came to see the show, which included a Saturday matinee.

So onward an upward...

Northallerton District Scout Council asking the producers again, “Can you do it again in 2009?” And the producers saying No! It was time to move on and for someone else to step in to the producer’s role. And so the show we’re not doing started rehearsals on the 5th July 2009 with a cast of nearly 60, and a back stage crew, again, of wonderful explorers. enthusiasm is as wonderful as every, and for the first time we have a musical director from the beginning of rehearsals – Alun Prest who helped us out so brilliantly at the end of last years show. We have the expert Sibelius user Charles Marshall again playing the computer for us to rehearse to, this year with great aplomb. With a fabulous team around us this is going to be the best show yet!

To all those Northallerton Gang Show members past and present...

Thank you, we couldn’t have done it without you!

© 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 Northallerton District Scout Council