8th June 2007 - 40th Celebrations
at Cross Hands, Old Sodbury
Organising Committee Pete Lawry, Angie Croome, Bob Allen & Margaret Bulmer
Photographs by Margaret Bulmer
The following piece was written for the 'Prompt' and 'Focal Poyntz' publications by Robert Pardoe...
The Actonians 40th anniversary Dinner
I have been a member of the Actonians since just before the turn of the century (doesn’t that sound a long time ago!). It is a wonderfully friendly and welcoming company in which it has been very easy to feel at home and I thoroughly enjoy the team work, camaraderie and commitment that goes into the productions that we put on each year. Through the ongoing archive work we also maintain a real sense of the history and development of the group, much of which is available on our excellent website (www.actonians.co.uk). Therefore there has been a considerable sense of anticipation for this fortieth anniversary year and the rather clandestine activities of the sub-group committee charged with the responsibility for planning the celebration. Those plans were made manifest on the evening of Friday 8th June 2007, and what an excellent event it was.
We celebrated our 40th Anniversary with an Anniversary Dinner at the Cross Hands Hotel in Old Sodbury. Over 90 people (Actonians past and present and other friends and associates) gathered in the main dining, sufficient numbers to ensure that we had the place to our selves. The first surprise of the evening was that there was an organised seating plan, and each place setting was personalised with a small pair of glass framed photos from the archives showing 2 roles that each member (past and present) had played. This was a lovely touch and provoked many reminiscences and much laughter as the pictures were examined and stories told. Then we ate, and what a splendid meal it was: Asparagus spears and Hollandaise Sauce, Roast Beef with plentiful vegetables, a Baked Alaska and coffee. After each course, guests would get up and move round the dining room meeting up with old friends and sharing memories so the whole meal had a wonderful informality to it whilst being in the fairly formal atmosphere of a hotel dining room. Alongside the joy of meeting up with new and old friends, Ray Bulmer had created a wonderfully engaging display from 40 years of archive material which told the story of the Group from its early beginnings in the ’60s to its current place in the annals of Bristol and Avon Amateur drama. This was pored over throughout the whole evening and generated great pleasure for all.
Steve Birch, the current Chair, opened the next part of the proceedings with a reflection on the history of the group with a number of anecdotes and memories from the previous 40 years. This was simply the precursor to the main speaker of the evening who was John Inverdale, one of the BBC’s main presenters of sports programming and, rather more importantly on this occasion, an erstwhile member of the group. His opening line “Ladies, Gentlemen and Fellow Actonians” was greatly approved of by the entire gathering. John entertained us with a fine speech covering both his early memories of rehearsals in the local pub, and further anecdotes from his more recent past. It was perfectly judged in terms of length, and delivered expertly with a very passable impersonation of John Arlott’s Hampshire burr in the telling of the final story.
John then invited us all to stand and raise our glasses in a toast to the Actonians. The final surprise of the evening was the gift of a engraved wine glass with the “Actonians’ logo” and “40th Anniversary” for all those present: a delightful memento of the evening.
There was a general reluctance to leave after the end of the formalities. Stories continued to be shared, faces from the past continued to be recognised and remembered, laughter continued to echo across the dining room and bar and the company of friends continued to be enjoyed into the night.
It is a hope devoutly to be wished that the Actonians Drama Group also continues to grow and flourish so that further such celebratory milestones can be enjoyed. Huge thanks go to all those who made such a wonderful evening possible and particularly to the Special sub-committee (see list above) whose meticulous planning was so richly rewarded. Robert Pardoe
Guest of honour, ex-Actonian Johnny Inverdale, is seen here with Josh Chapman and Charlie Blake.