Robinson Crusoe hopes to raise more than a laugh

Reporter:

Rebecca Cole

WREXHAM’S oldest pantomine company is set to turn back the clock with its latest production.

The dedicated cast at the Wrexham and District Pantomime Company will take to the stage at Glyndwr University’s William Aston Hall to perform Robinson Crusoe later this month.

For more than a century the company has been producing popular pantomimes with all profits donated to local charities.

WDPC, then named the Walter Roberts Amateur Pantomime Company, started life in 1906 as a sideline in the Wrexham Carnival and took place in the Beast Market and the first pantomime was performed on stage at the Empire Music Hall on
Lambpit Street the following year.

According to Mark Salisbury, committee member and pantomime dame at WDPC, their biggest triumph, which was documented in the Wrexham Leader, came in 1946 when 24,000 people saw them perform Robinson Crusoe at the Majestic raising £2,830 in just a week.

He said: “This would have been a vast amount of money in those days; you could’ve bought a house with it.

“And it can only be a good omen that we are performing the same panto this year.”

The princely sum helped to build the Wrexham and East Denbighshire War Memorial Hospital which later became part of Wrexham’s Maelor Hospital.

And there is still a ward at the current Maelor named in honour of the company’s continued support – the Pantomime Ward.

To this day the company’s main inspiration is still to support those local charities that are most cherished by the community, including Nightingale House and Hope House hospices.

The company has recently donated a huge £3,500 to local charities. This staggering sum is the company's profits from last year’s production of Jack and the Beanstalk, which ran during the February half term, and they are hoping to raise even more this year.

Mr Salisbury is proud of the company's heritage and charitable work.

He said: “It’s great to think we’re still popular and are still well supported by the town.

“We’re so grateful to the people of Wrexham, and those who travel in from further afield for backing us.

“We quite literally wouldn’t be able to do what we do without them.”

He added: “We did a bit extra this year for Nightingale House Hospice when we held a charity concert in honour of our friend Wynne Edwards who was a resident there before he died in February.”

Added to the money donated from last year’s production of Jack and the Beanstalk, the company has been able to hand over thousands of pounds over a number of years.

Margaret Hollings, community and events fundraising manager, is delighted to receive such generous support.

She said: “Nightingale House Hospice has been privileged for 15 years to be associated with the Wrexham and District Pantomime Company, and the hospice has been very lucky to be one of the local recipient charities with money going towards the fantastic services for local patients and families.

“We are truly grateful to everybody at the Wrexham and District Pantomime company for all of their support, both front of stage and back stage where lots of hard work continues throughout the year.”

Mr Salisbury added: “We’ve been only too happy to donate to such worthy causes.

“So we’d like to invite everyone to come along in half term because the more tickets we sell the more cash we’ll be able to donate to the charities we all care so much about.”

See full story in the Leader

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