Favourite Things: Maintaining a theatrical tradition in cultural city

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Rachel Habergham moved to Harthill on the outskirts of Sheffield as a young child and has stayed within a few miles of there ever since. She now lives in the village of Wales with her husband, children and a puppy. She is a key member of the Wales Methodist Church Pantomime Players, making sure local children can get involved to maintain a 72-year tradition. T

his year, for the first time, all three of her daughters will perform in the company’s Cinderella at the Montgomery Theatre in Sheffield city centre from January 13 to 21. For the last three years Rachel has also organised the company’s annual charity night. Local foster families are always a big part of this special night.

Endcliffe Park

There are so many special parks in Sheffield but Endcliffe holds many personal memories. Opened in 1887 to commemorate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria it has something for everybody. There is nothing like a walk in the park with friends. Here you get the added bonus of wonderful places for the kids to play and a great café to share coffee and cake. Its proximity to Ecclesall Road with its shops, cafés and bars make it a great day out all year round.

Fagan’s

There is nothing like a traditional pub and I spent many an hour with my dad in Fagan’s. His love of folk music was a massive pull and before he moved out of the area he could regularly be found singing in the back room. There is something very special about live music in an intimate venue although I have never been lucky enough to be there when anybody famous was around. There are many stories of famous singers coming from their concert at the City Hall for a sing and a pint. Even if you don’t know it as a pub you might know it as a location for Pete McKee’s The Snog, a fantastic mural that covers one whole side of the building.

Herd of Sheffield

The recent elephant visitors brought something special. So many of my friends enjoyed time with their children during the summer holidays hunting for the elephants. The city embraced everything about them, even encouraging Freshers as they arrived in September to take part. The final farewell at Meadowhall was a lovely opportunity to have one last look and read again the special stories behind them. What a great way to raise money for a local charity.

West Street

West Street has changed so much since the days I worked in Sheffield. I worked in almost all the Jobcentre and Benefits Offices on that road and it still holds great memories. For many there will always be one iconic memory of a Jobcentre on West Street. Surely there can’t be anybody in Sheffield who doesn’t love the film The Full Monty. West street now has a very different feel, especially in an evening as people enjoy the social side of our special city.

The Montgomery Theatre

I couldn’t exclude The Monty. For two weeks a year it becomes home. It is a beautiful old theatre that is hidden away. So many people are working hard to bring it up to date and hopefully in the longer term get disabled access but even without the luxuries it is very special. To see the faces of the smallest children in the cast when they arrive on the first night is magical. Not everyone gets a chance in their lifetime to perform in front of over 400 people but the magic of Wales Pantomime Players ensures five year olds with no singing or dancing background get that opportunity. This time I am looking forward to the added bonus for my steps on my fitbit as I spend most of my time going up and down the stone stairs looking after the 35 children in the chorus.

Proximity to the Hills

For many people in Sheffield the ease of access to the Peak District is a real bonus. For the pantomime family it has extra significance as once a year in August many of the group travel to Castleton for a week’s holiday.

Around 50 of us spend time relaxing with friends, walking in the beautiful countryside and playing a list of games that are almost as much of our tradition as the pantomime. If you are in Castleton after midnight on a dry night in the middle of August and you hear whistles or the words ‘Jack Jack shine your light’ you never know you could have come across Wales Pantomime Players in the middle of fields ‘Jacking’. It is an experience that shows the importance of friends.