Bingley Gilbert & Sullivan Society History
Bingley’s own Society was officially created in 1957 and was originally the Bingley Congregational Church Gilbert and Sullivan Society, reflecting its base. The first performance, The Mikado, took place in the Church’s Sunday School where musical accompaniment was provided by two pianos. The venue,” the Congs”, was characterful, to say the least, with its subterranean dressing rooms, narrow wooden stairs to the stage, thunderous plumbing and the “pocket handkerchief stage”, as described by the Bingley Guardian critic of the time. This was home for the next 17 years.
In 1972 the name of the company was changed to its present one, the Bingley Gilbert and Sullivan Society, and within three years the management committee took a bold step when it decided to move performances to the Bingley Arts Centre. This meant a whole new approach to organization and finance, including the funding of an orchestra and the hiring of scenery. Enormous risks were involved. However, “The Gondoliers” opened at its new venue in spring 1975 and was a resounding success, playing to full houses.
For some years after leaving the “Congs”, rehearsal rooms were a significant problem and rehearsing members became itinerant, regularly undertaking twice-weekly quests in order to find the chosen spot. . Luckily, in 1980, Eldwick St Lawrence’s Church was considering the future of its old Sunday School building and offered its lease on very generous terms in return for keeping the building in a good state of repair. In this way, an old wooden hut became the “Savoy House” and the Society’s rehearsal home for over 20 years. Sadly, this venue was condemned and the move was made to St. Lawrence’s “new” Sunday School. There followed another cycle of rehearsal uncertainty until, thankfully, Lady Lane Park School became our permanent base, where rehearsals take place twice weekly.
Over the last 53 years Bingley Gilbert and Sullivan Society has performed a full production every year, in addition to many fundraising events and concerts. Of the twelve operettas covered, some have been performed up to seven times, like the Mikado, while others only once, as with Utopia Limited. The 2011 production will be The Sorcerer, performed only 4 times previously, the last time in 1996.