Stage set for Dales theatre group in 'first of its kind' Calendar Girls: The Musical production

As the curtain rises on an amateur production of Gary Barlow’s Calendar Girls in a village hall in the Dales this autumn, watching from the audience will be one of the women behind the idea from where it all started.

Beryl Bamforth, better known as Miss January, was 65 when she and her brave comrades of the Rylstone and District Women’s Institute stripped off for a charity calendar 22 years ago.

The inspiring move has seen more than £6m raised for Blood Cancer UK and it has sparked off copycat nude calendars all over the world.

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While the musical has evolved from the film, starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, and a stage play, with new characters including the ladies’ teenage children.

Pictured, from left to right: Jane Ellison-Bates, Jennifer Scott, Rachel Warren, Penny Hart-Woods, Samantha Harrison. The actresses and Grassington Players members are set to perform Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s uplifting musical The Calendar Girls: The Musical this autumn. Photo credit: Heidi Marfitt Photography
Pictured, from left to right: Jane Ellison-Bates, Jennifer Scott, Rachel Warren, Penny Hart-Woods, Samantha Harrison. The actresses and Grassington Players members are set to perform Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s uplifting musical The Calendar Girls: The Musical this autumn. Photo credit: Heidi Marfitt Photography

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Now the heartwarming story is set to bring joy to Yorkshire once more, as fresh from the professional circuit, Calendar Girls: The Musical is returning to its roots.

The first licence to perform Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s uplifting musical has been granted to Grassington Players - where octogenarian Mrs Bamforth is a long-standing member.

It will be a family affair for Mrs Bamforth as her son Mark Bamforth and his partner Jane Ellison-Bates, will be part of the 19-strong cast, who will take to the stage at Grassington Devonshire Institute in late September.

The original Calendar Girls pictured at a calendar launch at Harvey Nichols in Leeds. From left to right: Tricia Stewart, Angela Baker, Beryl Bamforth, Linda Logan, Chris Clancy and Ross Fawcett . Photo credit: Bruce Rollinson/JPIMedia

Ms Ellison-Bates, 57, will take on the role of Annie Clarke, whose husband John’s leukemia death serves as the basis behind the idea of stripping off for the local Women’s Institute calendar to fund a sofa for hospital visitors in remembrance of him.

“It’s a privilege to be playing the role of Annie again nine years on from staging the play, honouring those inspirational local ladies whose original calendar was truly ground-breaking in celebrating women of all ages, shapes and sizes,” Ms Ellison-Bates said.

Originally scheduled for production in May last year rehearsals were well underway in Grassington before Covid-19 struck, though the secret of the premiere remained under wraps.

The cast has only been able to rehearse so far in groups of up to six actors due to the Covid restrictions.

Calendar Girls: The Musical has evolved from the film, starring from left to right: Penelope Wilton, Julie Walters, Helen Mirren and Celia Imrie. Photo credit: Steve Finn/Getty Images.

Ms Ellison-Bates said: “It’s an uplifting show anyway and it will be even more meaningful after this difficult time.”

Six years ago the musical was born and bred in Wharfedale as Barlow and Firth brought their new cast to Burnsall village hall to perform a pilot version to an invited audience in March 2015.

Following feedback from the ‘real calendar girls,'audiences can expect contrasting songs with a good dose of “Yorkshire grit and wit”, with comedy counterbalancing the tears in this uplifting tale of the heartbreak of cancer tempered by the triumph of female spirit.

“It is fitting that Grassington Players should be awarded the rights to the first amateur performance of Calendar Girls: The Musical, particularly after their moving interpretation of the play in 2012,” said Vivien Goodwin, Senior Vice President of Concord Theatricals.

The musical will be staged at Grassington Devonshire Institute from September 25 – October 2.

For more information visit here, or contact The Grassington Hub office on 01756 752222.

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