Musical society founded by miners seven decades ago celebrates 70th anniversary with biggest and best show yet

A music society started by a group of miners seven decades ago is preparing to mark its 70th anniversary with its biggest show yet.

Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Friday, 14th February 2020, 5:24 pm
Audrey Lawson (right) in the 1957 production of No No Nanette with two other founder and long serving members of the society, the late June Matthews and the late Jack Jopling.

Fatfield Musical Stage Society was started in the old mining town of Harraton Colliery, as Harraton Colliery Welfare Amateur Musical Society.

The group was formed in September of 1949 and held its first show in February of the following year, and has been performing a show every February for the last 69 years – with ‘Hello Dolly’ set to be their 70th anniversary production.

Group president Irene Graham, 79, from Fatfield, said: “I have been a member of our society for 59 years, one of the best things about being in the society is making friends and being able to perform and enjoy being in a show with like minded people.

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Founding member Audrey Lawton, 87 (middle) receiving The National Operatic And Dramatic Association 70th award

“I am still very good friends with people I met when I joined 59 years ago.”

Most of the original members and their families worked at Harraton Colliery and lived in the village until the closure of the mine in 1965.

Audrey Lawton, 87, is the only surviving founder member of the group, and is no stranger to performing in the society's shows. She was just 16 when she helped found the group.

Since she stopped performing for the society, Audrey still regularly attends shows and rehearsals to check in on the society.

Fatfield Musical Stage Society in the early years

The society has changed it name over the years, adapting to ‘membership demographic and the aim of the society’. The first change to Fatfield Operatic Society was in 1967, then to Fatfield Musical Stage Society in 2005.

Since its first production of ‘The Mikado’ 70 years ago, Fatfield Musical Stage Society has performed ‘Goodnight Vienna’ in 1962, ‘Oklahoma’ in 1990 and ‘The Sound of music’ in 2012, to name a few.

The group rehearses twice a week. Irene said it is very much part of the community and is always looking out to recruit new members. Fatfield Musical Stage Society will be performing ‘Hello Dolly’ at St Roberts School Theatre in Washington, from February 19-22 , tickets are available

Current members of Fafield Musical Stage Society preparing for the 70th anniversary production of Hello Dolly
Fatfield Musical Stage Society in the early years of its foundation