Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Of Defibrillators and Donations...

What a day we had yesterday!

Some of our members visited Island Car Centre in Rookley, the site of our sixth Public Access Defibrillator, which within a week of its installation has already been used to help someone.

Louise Walker - head of the Isle of Wight NHS Ambulance Training & Community Response Services (and mum to one of our junior dancers!) - joined us for the visit and had this to say:

"Once again thank you so much to the Wight Strollers for supporting our Community Defibrillator programme, your passion and drive to raise money for local causes is highly commendable and so very much appreciated.  I look forward to seeing you all in the Island carnivals this year!"

A defibrillator is a portable device that can be used by a member of a public in the event of cardiac arrest - it analyses a casualty’s heart rhythm and will shock them if needed.

For every minute that passes without defibrillation and Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), chances of survival decrease by around ten per cent.

The idea behind PADs is that when someone calls 999 the Isle of Wight NHS Ambulance Service will make the caller aware of the nearest Public Access Defibrillator - and it could be what makes the difference between someone making it to hospital or not, between someone living and dying.

They're an invaluable piece of kit, that's for sure, and the scheme to get PADs set up Island-wide is one we hope to continue to support - we've purchased six for the Island so far, and counting!

But that wasn't all that happened on our visit to Rookley...

Whilst we were at Island Car Centre, the staff there came out to chat with us about who we are and what we do, and then disappeared...when they returned, it was to present us with a cheque for £100 towards our fundraising efforts for the local community.

We were truly touched, and would like to thank Island Car Centre for both their generosity in making a donation and also for agreeing to be the guardians of our latest PAD.

Everything we do is for Island charities, all our donations stay on the Island, and every penny makes a massive difference to Island people. So, from all of us here at The Wight Strollers, we'd like to say a massive thank-you to Island Car Centre, to Louise and the Isle of Wight NHS Ambulance Training & Community Response Service and, of course, to you - our supporters - for making all this possible.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

A Quick Catch-Up!

Firstly, our apologies for the radio silence - things have been rather bonkers behind the scenes of late!

However, to make up for it, we have a bumper edition of news and updates, starting with Jack and the Beanstalk...

We were blessed with an entirely sold out pantomime run, a first in Strollers history! Normally, for reasons unknown, the first Saturday night is slow to sell and never quite makes it to full - but not this year!

Our cast and crew were chuffed with the result, and as such it's meant we've been able to give another fantastic set of donations to Island charities and good causes.

At our AGM in April, we donated £2,500 to The Bus Shelter IOW, £2,300 to the 1st Newport Scouts, £1,000 to the Isle of Wight Society for the Blind, and we purchased our sixth Public Access Defibrillator for the Isle of Wight - wow!

We also had a our committee elections at the AGM, with our chairman, Mike Sutcliffe, standing down after 12 years of service and our treasurer, Brian Whitewood, standing down after 9 years.

"Every year I report that we have had a pretty successful 12 months," said Mike in his final chairman's report. "I can't do that this time round because the last year hasn't been pretty successful - it's been ruddy amazing."

He went on to praise the work of the cast, crew and committee, and the loyalty of our audience members old and new in helping us to continue to play to sell-out houses.

"I always end my report with the same words, because I can't think of better ones," he finished. "The fact that we have staged two amazing productions and that we can donate so much to our good causes...is down to all of you, who give so freely of your money, your time and your various special talents. So, on behalf of our audiences, our charities, the committee and myself, I sincerely thank you all."

Both Mike and Brian have been absolutely incredible and there aren't words enough to thank them for everything they've done for the Strollers. It's safe to say they will be missed on the committee, but their successors are worthy ones and the new committee is looking forward to continuing the wonderful work done under the guidance of its predecessors.

Taking the reins from Mike is Gerry Tulloch, one of the founding Strollers and a former member of the Nesta Meech School of Dance, from which the company originated.

From dancing to directing,  performing performing to creating the most spectacular costumes (including last year's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat!), Gerry is part of the very fibre of The Wight Strollers and the company could not be in safer hands.

Joining her on committee is Leslie Kast as Treasurer, along with the confirmed director of our next two productions, Sarah Scotcher, with Judith Day reprising her role as Secretary.

Mike Squibb and Emily Scotcher (yours truly!) were both reelected, whilst Nicola Steedman, Aly Keele-Toms and David Kast also continue to serve their terms on committee, and the company also elected two new members in Elisa Jones and Andrew Wilson-Jenner.

In more Strollers news, we will once again be appearing at the Island's carnivals this summer; although our theme, as always, is top secret for now, we can promise that it's going to get the crowds buzzing!

We have also been able to announce our next two productions, our February 2018 pantomime and our July 2018 musical.

On February 10th, 11th and 17th, we will be returning to Medina Theatre to perform Cinderella, one of the best-loved pantomimes and a firm favourite with many of the cast. The script is underway, the casting process has started, and the production team are starting to put together ideas to make this our most magical pantomime yet!

Following that, on July 6th, 7th and 8th 2018, we will be performing our second musical when we tackle the fabulous Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. It's colourful, it's fast-paced, it's funny and it's packed with floor-fillers like 'I Will Survive', 'Go West', 'It's Raining Men', 'Hot Stuff' and 'What's Love Got To Do With It?' - it's one you won't want to miss!

Phew! It looks like we're in for our biggest and most bonkers year yet, if all that is anything to go by!

We'll be back again soon with carnival updates, pantomime news and a few sneaky hints at how our planning for Priscilla is going...

...It's good to be back!


Thursday, 19 January 2017

Meet the Family Dimple!

We've already introduced Jack to you, so now it's time to introduce his family: Dame Dotty Dimple (his mother) and Simple Simon (his brother), who are as ridiculous as Jack is brave and as doolally as Jack is smart!

Dame Dotty will be played by John Woodford, a well-known face on the Island's theatrical scene, particularly for his legendary Island-wide performances as dame and numerous Isle of Wight Amateur Theatre Award wins.

John, who is also the chairman of the Island Savoyards and a long-standing member of Ventnor Theatre Group, started out with The Wight Strollers in 2014, when he joined the cast of Robinson Crusoe as Camilla Crusoe, whose flirtatious ways landed her a horde of pirate admirers and a husband in the charming Captain Perkins.

The following year, John returned to the Strollers stage as dame to play Widow Twankey in Aladdin, before taking a break from heels to play Smiley the Dwarf in our 2016 production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

This summer, he not only paraded the streets as part of our 'Dirty Dancing' carnival entry, he also played both Levi and Mr Potiphar in our July musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

John is infamous within the company for his infectious laugh, excellent comic timing and his sense of fun, and his turn as Dame Dotty Dimple will prove no exception to this rule...especially when he's paired with the incomparably silly Patrick Barry!

Patch will be playing Simple Simon, the latest in a string of comic roles for Patch within The Wight Strollers, and certainly one of his greatest!

Patch joined the Strollers as Prince Rupert for our 2013 pantomime, Sleeping Beauty, a performance for which he won an Isle of Wight Amateur Theatre Award. He made himself especially memorable for this win when, at the awards ceremony, he tripped up the stairs and flew onto the stage in the brilliantly comic way that only Patrick can!

Since then, he has taken numerous roles within the company, including Robinson Crusoe in the 2014 panto of the same name, Wishee Washee (Aladdin 2015) and Dozy the Dwarf (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 2016), as well as taking on the part of Napthali in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

An accomplished thespian, Patch's skills range from Shakespeare to swordplay, and he has been a member of numerous theatre groups over the years, including Ad Lib and the Isle of Wight Shakespeare Company, playing roles ranging from D'Artagnan to Lysander.

Patch's three daughters also perform in the Strollers as dancers, and he's often to be found having a 'proud Daddy' moment in the wings when he's not on stage himself!


To see these two create comedy gold, you need to get your tickets for Jack and the Beanstalk on Saturday 18th, Sunday 19th and Saturday 25th February - you can get them online, by phoning 01983 823884 or by visiting Medina Theatre Box Office in person.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The Sweetest Fairy Of All

We are delighted to introduce Shannon Crouch in her debut speaking role with The Wight Strollers. 

She will be appearing in our February production of Jack and the Beanstalk as Fairy Sugardust, the sweet and magical fairy who watches over the village of Old Windy Bottom and saves the day when things turn sour!

So, Shannon, how did you feel when you were asked to play Fairy Sugardust?
Nervous but also very excited!

What's been the biggest challenge so far?
All the words rhyming - if you get something wrong, it's much scarier!

And what are you most looking forward to about the show?
Everything...and the sparkly dress!

Experience tells us that everyone has their own little ways to get into their roles - how have you been getting into character?
Channeling my inner girlies and finding random kitchen utensils to be me wand - a wooden spoon wrapped in Xmas paper with a tin foil star...and now a flowery spatula! It's Cath Kidston!

Well, that's the most important thing, obviously! Let's rewind for a second, Shannon - what was your first pantomime with us?
It was Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood in February 2012 - that feels like a long time ago now!

And what about before joining The Wight Strollers? Did you come to us bursting with stage experience or were you a relative newbie?
In Year 2, I was a Little Red Hen in a primary school production - but that's it! I was a newbie!

Wow! Well, you're not a newbie anymore - this is your seventh pantomime with us! Out of all the pantos you've done so far, which has been your favourite?
Ooh, that's hard! Probably Robinson Crusoe (2014)...apart from the mermaid wigs!

I have a picture of those (see right!)
Oh, good!

Blue hair suits you! So if it's not the wigs, then what is your favourite thing about being part of The Wight Strollers?
Being able to do something that I love with basically a massive group of friends.

And the big question: Why should people book tickets to Jack and the Beanstalk?
Because it's a family friendly fun show and supporting amazing Island charities


You heard it here, from our very own Fairy Sugardust - tickets for Jack and the Beanstalk are worth every penny! And they're selling fast, so make sure you book in advance to ensure you have seats!

Tickets are available in person from the Medina Theatre Box Office (open weekdays 7am-9pm and weekends 9am-5pm) or by phone on 01983 823884 or online at www.medinatheatre.co.uk.

See you in the audience!

Saturday, 10 December 2016

A Snapshot of our Social Media

On Saturday 10th December 2011, exactly five years ago today, Nicola Chastney (nee Steedman) and myself launched The Wight Strollers' Facebook page to the public with a barrage of old pantomime pictures and our very first public Facebook post, which was about none other than our Penguin Parade around the Island.

It went something like this...

Why not pop along to Newport or Ryde tomorrow and revisit the fun of the carnival with The Wight Strollers!
We'll be getting off our penguin bus in St James' Square at 10am, and waddling our way through Newport before riding to Ryde and performing at Tesco and The Busy Bee!
10am - St. James' Square
10:30 - HMV and the High Street
11am - Cineworld
11:25am - M&S
11:45am - Morrison's
12:10pm - Iceland
12:45pm - Sainsbury's
1:45pm - Tesco
2:15pm The Busy Bee
We will be singing, dancing and waddling our little flippers off to promote our 2012 production of Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood, so come along and join the fun!
See you there! :-)

We've come a long, long way since then, and gained a lot of 'likes' along the way - 1,080, to be exact!

In February 2013, we were celebrating reaching 2,919 people with our Facebook page - in July 2016, at the height of Joseph, our page reached over 10,000 people with a single post. Wow!

This very blog launched on Monday 17th September 2012, and, to date, has been viewed 21,949 times. The most popular post ever published is 'Notes from the Narrator', with a whopping 875 views so far!

In fact, our top ten blog posts are a proper mix - take a look below and see what the fuss is about!*

10. Springtime With The Strollers - 327 views
9. Introducing...Aladdin! - 345 views
8. Aladdin 2015: The Feedback, Part 1 - 386 views
7. Pretty As A Princess - 395 views
6. Wonderful Workshops - 422 views
5. He's Just A Dreamer... - 454 views
4. Not Just For Kids: Pantomimes Are For Everyone! - 478 views
3. Honest As Coconuts: Banter With Benjamin - 567 views
2. Such A Dazzling Show Of Many Colours! - 623 views
1. Notes From The Narrator... - 875 views

*N/B: These figures are correct at the time of writing, on December 10th 2017...we're hoping they're about to shoot up even more!

Our Twitter channel (@WightStrollers) was launched on January 25th 2013, just before we revamped our website, and our current Twitter tally is 588 and counting!

A few years on, we introduced an e-mail address - wightstrollers@gmail.com - and then finally joined Instagram earlier this year, on January 13th, which currently stands at 260 followers, and in February we created a YouTube channel, thus completing our social media profile...for now!

Originally comprised of just two people, it's a small team that runs our social media channels now, led by Em Scotcher (yours truly) and Allan Gregory, with admins Nicola Chastney and Sarah Scotcher on standby to support the madness!

The e-mail account, blog and website, meanwhile, are all run by me - which is no small task, but it's certainly one that's good fun!

Our social media team are all volunteers, just like the rest of our company, and we've been honoured on more than one occasion to have people send us messages thinking we're a professional team!

Since The Wight Strollers' first public page appeared on social media, we've moved from text-only posts and rehearsal notices to pictures, collages, videos and homemade memes to promote our shows, and it's all thanks to our fabulous team, and - of course - our members and followers for jumping on board with whatever we ask them to share!

We're immensely proud of how far our online presence has come since 2011, and we're grateful to everyone who has taken the time to like, follow, watch, comment, share, read or post on any of our pages.

Please keep the love coming, and ask your friends and family to give us a like, a follow or a share as we approach the launch of our tickets for Jack and the Beanstalk, which will be performed in February 2017 at Medina Theatre.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Pretty as a Princess

Last week, we introduced Michael Mullin as Jack - this week, we're introducing our gorgeous principal girl, Princess Primrose, who will be played in our February production of Jack and the Beanstalk by Beth Batchelor.

Beth is another relative newbie to the company; she joined in September 2014, stepping out to tread the boards with us for the first time in February 2015 as part of the chorus for our award-winning production of Aladdin.

She was a member of our chorus, too, for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (2016) before being asked to play the seductive Mrs Potiphar in our summer production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. 

She then proceeded to clean up (and dance!) the streets of the Island as part of this year's 'Dirty Dancing' carnival entry - it's safe to say Beth has thrown herself wholly into Strollers life since she joined, and we love having her as part of the Strollers family!

Prior to joining The Wight Strollers, Beth was no stranger to the stage.

Beth has, in fact, been performing on stage since she was 6 years old, and was an Irish Dancer for 10 years, coming second in the British Championships when she was 14 and even qualifying for European Championships. But that's not all!

"I starred as an extra in a Discovery Channel Documentary when I was 18," she says. "I played an air crash victim - which didn't really help with my existing fear of planes!"

Jack and the Beanstalk marks Beth's first principal girl role within The Wight Strollers, and she will be playing Princess Primrose. Not your typical princess, Primrose hates formality and falls for the charming and witty Jack Dimple, a village boy.

So how is Beth finding playing a princess?

"I love being a princess - I have to say that, in reality, I'm not a typically girly girl. It's been a little challenging getting into character, but I have been "revising" by watching endless Disney Princess films!"

Having seen her in rehearsals, we can tell you she's going to be absolutely fantastic, and she's been working hard with Michael (Jack) to perfect what will be another gorgeous panto duet.

"The singing rehearsal with our MD and 'Jack' went really well," Beth says. "I'm looking forward to adding a few moves to the singing now!"

For Beth, all things panto may be going smoothly, but for poor Princess Primrose the road is a little more challenging; after all, the course of true love never did run smooth, and soon after she meets Jack she's kidnapped by the sinister Giant - Buster Gut-Bucket - and taken to his castle in the clouds.

It's up to Jack to rescue her...but will he succeed?

Make sure you get your tickets for Jack and the Beanstalk - performed at Medina Theatre, Newport, on February 18th, 19th and 25th 2017 - to find out!


Tickets for Jack and the Beanstalk go on sale Tuesday 3rd January 2017 from Medina Theatre Box Office on 01983 823884 or at www.medinatheatre.co.uk - don't miss out!

Monday, 28 November 2016

Hit the Stage, Jack!

It's official!

Jack and the Beanstalk rehearsals are well and truly underway, and we're ready to put on another fantastic show, jam-packed with comedy, live music and fun for all the family.

We've been busy putting the wheels in motion over the last month, with work beginning on scenery and costumes, publicity stunts in the pipeline and our cast, chorus and dancers working exceptionally hard on the script and songs.

Some of our team even whisked themselves off to Disneyland Paris, where our very own Jack took the opportunity to have a go at climbing a beanstalk in readiness for February!

So, without further ado, we'd like to introduce the first of this year's cast members: Michael Mullin as the titular Jack.

The hero of the tale, Jack is thrust into the spotlight when the unfriendly neighborhood giant kidnaps the princess and he, being head over heels in love with her, sets off on a daring rescue.

Michael's first pantomime was our 2014 offering, Robinson Crusoe, in which he played Man Friday. Since then, he's played PC Wong (Aladdin, 2015), Chuckles the Jester (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 2016) and Judah (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat).

Outside of the Strollers, Michael is a founder member of the Isle of Wight Shakespeare Company, and has directed shows for both their adult and youth productions, as well as playing all manner of parts and even picking up an Isle of Wight Amateur Theatre Award in the process!

In 2014, he also appeared in Black Iris Events' production of Little Shop of Horrors as the hilarious florist shop owner, Mr Mushnik.

Usually found playing a comedic character in our productions, this is Michael's first outing as a principal boy for The Wight Strollers, and it's safe to say he's smashing it!

But will he be up to the task of rescuing the beautiful Princess Primrose?

Beth Batchelor certainly hopes so!

Starring as our principal girl this year, you can find out more about Princess Primrose and the lovely Beth in our next blog post - coming soon!


Jack and the Beanstalk will be coming to Medina Theatre on February 18th, 19th and 25th 2017 - tickets go on sale on Tuesday 3rd January at just £8 for adults and £7 for under-14s, with all proceeds going to Island charities. Save the dates and don't miss out!