brian roberts

I became a member of the Saint Albans Amateur Dramatics Society, around 35 years ago, and have remained with them ever since, with the occasional break. I have played numerous parts, but my favourite was the disabled army captain in Wayward Spirit by Charlotte Hastings.
I was delighted when the society joined with The Charity Players, and since their merger I have continued to be in many productions. I am also delighted that my children Peter and Anna, have also been active members. Over the years I have gone on to direct several plays, including The Winslow Boy and Gaslight. Most recently I directed my first panto in 2018, Mother Goose.

Peter gasson

I joined the group a year or so after it first started, around 1995. Derrol got me involved by introducing me to the group to initially help behind the scenes with the sound effects and curtains. This was when the group was based in St James at the WMC. I quickly progressed on and taking small parts in productions, the first being "Greedy" as I remember, in a panto staged at Bective School. After the fun I had performing, I realised I had "caught the acting bug!" I was then elected Chairman and at that time, The Charity Players were looking for a new venue to stage their productions as we could no longer continue at the WMC My brother Colin was involved at that time with Saint Albans Amateur Dramatics Society and he had mentioned that this group, (SAADS), was suffering from lack of support, and may be folding.
I mentioned this at a committee meeting of The Charity Players and after explaining that SADS was actually at Saint Albans Church in Mayfield Road, Northampton, and not in Saint Albans, Hertfordshire!Sandy next arranged a meeting, the two groups merged and the rest is history, as they say.
The thing I really like about The Charity Players is that anyone can have a go at acting, backstage help or any one of the other myriad of tasks that are involved in staging a production.
I've seen 90 year olds, sitting chatting with 8 year olds, both connecting engaged with a common interest.
I think one of the main benefits of the group (apart from raising money for local charities), is that it brings all different members of the community together and helps develop confidence in all who are involved, regardless of age or social background etc.
I love being involved, particularly in the pantos and have made many good friends within the group. I often wonder who has most fun during a panto, the cast or the audience?! It must be a close run thing at times..

Marilyn Farndale

I joined the The Saint Albans Charity Players of Northampton around 2001, I was a little nervous about being in the plays but my first acting role was in a play called Sylvia’s Wedding, I played Sylvia’s mother, andit was a big part, I found out that I loved it, so then I was hooked. It is such a great entertaining hobby, I have made made lovely friends, and I have taken part in many plays and pantomimes over the years, raising money for a lot of deserving charities.
I am over 70 now, and I wish I had joined the group years ago. I still love the atmosphere backstage in productions and of course,keep my hand in the game! I have just been cast as Aunt Francesca in A Butler Did It! for our June 2018 show, and I am very excited for such a great part!

vicki pankhurst

About 10 years ago in 2008, I moved to Northampton, and I was lucky enough to land a job working in the same office as long standing member Julie Plowman. At the time, Julie was in rehearsals for a play and invited me  along to come and see her in the show. Having been in various am-dram groups since primary school, I was interested to see the production. My expectations weren’t high but they were definitely exceeded! The set was impressive, the acting even more so, and the enthusiasm and dedication of the people involved was inspiring. Afterwards, I went to the next set of auditions got cast as Freda in A Tomb with a View. After that, I have never looked back, and have since appeared in numerous plays and pantomimes, playing everything from a witch to a murderer, to a seductress and even to one of Snow White's seven dwarves! Having spent over a decade on the wrestling circuit, I am also well versed in stage combat, and consider myself I think as the group’s fight choreographer! (Do hope we need one for a play one day!)
I have made such good friends within the group, and we even socialize outside of it too. Everyone is so committed to each play and puts time and effort into making every production the best it can be. I am very proud to be a member of such a wonderful group of people, and I’m so happy that we raise so much for charity at the same time. The Charity Players are my second family!

lloyd & sonia sparrow

My connection with the group started simple enough with a request that came my way for more children to take part in a local pantomime, our daughter Laura, was 6 years old at the time so we thought, why not. It quickly turned into helping out backstage for us and prompting from the wings. That was back in 2003, some 15 years ago and the start of a long term relationship with the group. Set building and stage management have occupied most of my time and on production week Sonia and I do all set changes, props and curtains etc. Standing in on rehearsal nights is also part of the job, which can be fun stepping into a character's shoes briefly! I did take part in one play, being cast as the back end of a horse (make of that what you will), and the eagle-eyed out there may occasionally see me on stage dancing in a finale!
I’ve seen the group grow in strength and commitment over the years, seen members come and go, but there has always been an underlying ethos of friendship, fun and camaraderie. I’ve made a lot of friends through The Charity Players and hope to make a lot more to come! LLoyd


Although I had been writing for many years for pleasure the thought of going into AmDram was never on my mind. In 1996 I started work at St John’s care home as a gardener/handyman. In my third week of employment the then Matron Jan Lomas, asked what I did on Saturday’s? “This and that, a bit of writing and photography and all aspects of nature study.” was my reply. “I wondered if you could give Terry (her Husband) a helping hand at the Saint Alban’s Church, he is building a set for a forth coming play?”  Keen to impress my new boss I readily agreed and the following Saturday turned up for set building. I remember, there was Terry and a man named Bert. We did very little and I thought this isn’t very productive! As the two men seemed more interested in their caravanning escapades...! the way of putting the set flats together was unbelievable, everything was lashed together with rope and the panels were then painted with powder paint, which seemed okay until someone closed a door and then it all fell off! It was then that I started to sketch different ways to build and hold a set together. After that first production I never saw Terry and Burt again!
When the next production came up I was the only one there for the job and doggedly I built the set, and other members then decorated it. It was in 1998, due to lack of members that the
SAADS sadly decided they might as well fold. Whilst visiting my Father one Sunday morning, my brother Pete, also called in and over a cup of tea he announced that the amdram group he Charity Players were thinking of disbanding as they had lost their venue at St James working men’s club. I had previously helped them set build on a couple of occasions. “That’s sad”, I said as the Saint Albans Amateur Dramatics Society was also coming to an end. It was then that we came up with the suggestion of an amalgamation. A meeting between Sandie (Charity Players) and Jan (SADDS) was arranged and then The Saint Alban’s Charity Players of Northampton was born! and to run on a one year trial basis. It is fair to say that both groups were very different. For ages for a start they were like chalk and cheese, and also the diction and religious conviction of a church group coupled with a much younger fun loving and sometimes riotous group, some would say it could never work! But work it did, yes there was a lot of ironing out to do but the older members of SAADS began to warm to the younger playful Charity Players sense of fun. The Charity Players also learnt from the older more experienced members of SAADS and from all that, here we are today!
I began writing plays and Pantomimes in earnest mainly to save the excessively high costs and the unnecessary high charges of copyright!  As the group progressed the sets got bigger, daring and more extravagant! I remember spending all day building a set for a Pantomime I wrote called ‘Rainbow Valley’. For 12 hours, myself and a friend (Jason) spent building part of the set. We 'called it a day' at 11.30pm, but as I was not happy and unable to sleep, I went back to the church hall and took it all down again! Then by Sunday evening it was all rebuilt! Such is the dedication to our sets and only the best will do, hence our panto sets have a reputation of being second to none!
I was very grateful when Lloyd Sparrow and his wife Sonia, joined the group as Lloyd's ideas and practical knowledge made even impossible ideas work! I cannot remember when Neil Plowman and his wife Julie joined, but Neil took over the sound and lighting which was something I was also doing up until then. Julie’s input too is invaluable with things like costume help and organising social events and more!
Our biggest set filled the church hall down the sides, so that you could tunnel through all 9 sets including the stage in the middle! It was for the play ‘Clueless’ - an adaptation I did from the film ‘Clue’, and the design resembled a big ‘Cluedo’ board! Taking it all down was heartbreaking and we all felt it, the public loved it!
I get great joy from writing at the moment and I seem to be stuck on ‘Murder Mysteries’! It can be anything from one-night murder mystery dinner’s, to full-blown plays. I never know where my mind will take me next! AmDram allows me to see my work performed and I am grateful for that. T
he group has now changed its name back to The Charity Players as of 2018, because that’s what we do, we raise money for charity - needy causes, all local. Also, people thought we came from Saint Albans, and we know this affected our audiences. I shall continue to write plays for the group for as long as they need my work.
The group is one big happy family who are willing to help each other if needed. It's ethos is fun, kind and caring and very understanding...created by Sandie, all those years ago!

derrol barnes

My beginning with the group began some 25 years ago when the group began in 1993 , which was actually a forced inclusion because my boss at the time lived next door to Sandie, and he arrived at work one day saying that she needed some extras plus it's all for a good cause, and had just told her that I would do it! So I went along for the first time and she asked if I would read a part as someone hadn't turned up (that old chestnut!) and before I knew it, by the time of the second rehearsal all of a sudden I was Willie the village idiot!!
Well, this was as far away from my personality as you could get and that actually became my reason for continuing with it! I enjoyed the feeling of doing something outside of my comfort zone and endured the ridicule from my mates "Alright luvvie?!" and all that, but I did have the last laugh as two of them are now treading the boards with me!
Over the years I have played many different roles from full on dame and village idiots to punk rockers and villains (which they all say it suits me for some reason!) and have thoroughly enjoyed them all.
The hard work and fun that we have had supporting our local charities has been brilliant and we are thankful to have such a driving force in Sandie behind the group, who clearly motivates from the top down. 
My highlights over the years are many from uncontrollable laughter to severe embarrassment! I once missed a whole key scene that caused chaos backstage and it missed a vital part of the story (haha), I didn't even know I'd done it!
In conclusion, the main thing that I have got back from being a member of this group is the diverse range of people with whom I wouldn't have normally socialized or mix with, who have now become some of my closest friends. 

john marney

I started with The Charity Players way back in 1998, performing with them at the St James WMC. Since then I have continued to be involved in most of their productions since the amalgamation with The St Albans Amateur Dramatics Society which then became The Saint Albans Charity Players of Northampton, My past shows have included Billy Liar, Gaslight and Theft, as well as countless pantos and farces over the years! I have also been a regular on the Committee, having been Treasurer, Publicity Person & Chairman - and am now acting as the in-house photographer and am loving it!

Mary Simms

How I got involved with the group was that some years ago, around 2007, I wasn't working at the time and was really looking for something to do with myself! So I decided to do a course at Northampton College. I enrolled on a BTec National Award in Acting.  I never had any ambition to become an actress or ever imagined myself going on a stage.  I just thought that I would try it and to give me something to do. Well I never imagined how much I would love the course. As well as all the academic work I really enjoyed the practical side to it too, it was so much fun. I got my BTec National Award in Acting in June 2005, with grade Distinction. I then decided that I would try and join an amateur dramatics group.
About two years later, I happened to read in the newspaper about a play being put on by The Saint Alban's Charity Players of Northampton. I phoned them up and spoke to Nora Trunchen, who invited me along.  Well I got a main character part as Gloria Grant in the play Continental Quilt.
I felt like I had been "thrown in at the deep end", I was so nervous! Although I had been to college it was the first time that I had performed in front of such a large audience. As time went on I got more confident in myself and in performing. 
After Continental Quilt, I had the opportunity to be in lots of other plays such as Hickory Dickory Dock, Holiday Snap, Alice in Panto land, Sing a song of Sixpence, A Tomb with a View, Mr Maccaroni and The Exploding Pizza Pie, Little Red Riding Hood, Babes in The Wood, Cinderella & The Magic Roundabout, Rainbow Valley, Robinson Crusoe, Season's Greetings and Murder On The Dance floor.
The charity group means a lot to me, as well as being given the opportunity to play different characters and to wear some amazing costumes. I especially enjoy the rehearsals. we can have such a laugh and I have made lots of friends and we often have social meetups!

Carol Morgan

I joined  around 1991, I think, when it was still very much attached to the church as SAADS. The members at that time I fondly remember were Nora, Sheila, Joan, Jan and Mary, who were all on the Parish Church Committee of the Saint Albans Church and all very accomplished actresses.  Brian Roberts also came along, having been with the group previously, and another male name I remember is Bert.  I was introduced to the group by Mary York (now Timlin), whose mother was Audrey Lewis, again she was a great church-goer, who sadly passed away in 2000.  Mary was very fond of Nora and the others.
I think my first play was Gigi, playing in it as a french maid! Nora was directing and she told me off for flicking a yellow duster and creating a distraction for the audience - it was a comfort flick for me, however, whilst I tried desperately to remember my lines and directions!  
I cannot remember when I joined the committee, but it’s been for many years, through two marriages, loads of characters and lots of members! 

richard cotton

I joined the Saint Albans Charity Players in 2017, and for the first time I had a bit part in Murder On The Dance Floor, followed by a singing villager and a few lines in the panto, Mother Goose. In my spare time I am a sci-fi and fantasy writer with two books published. I came to learn how to script write and to see how the actors felt with the scripts they get given. The group means a lot to me as I have made a whole bunch of new friends along the way!

mary johnson

I joined the drama in 2015, and the first play I watched them rehearse was Touch & Go. I also made the shorts for the two lead men. The first panto I helped with was Snow White of which I made all the dwarf costumes. I started by selling programs and then with show refreshments, helping Les with the teas and coffees too during rehearsals. After Les had his op I took over. Sadly Les Arnold passed suddenly in 2017, before he could get back up and running with the group, so I have been doing that ever since.
I am very happy being front of house during our shows but we all miss Les very much, I still keep thinking he will come through the door any minute.