Blue Light Theatre Company has green light to return with Once Upon A Time panto

Blue Light Theatre Company cast members in dance rehearsals for Once Upon A Time

ONCE upon a time, the Blue Light Theatre Company expected to do a pantomime only once.

Instead, the York company is to stage its eighth panto next January. “Not bad, considering the first one was supposed to be a one-off,” says writer Perri-Ann Barley, who is joined in the production team by director Craig Barley and additional scriptwriter Steven Clark.

“We’ve worked out that since we began fundraising in 2012, we’ve managed to raise more than £25,000 for charity, which we’re very proud of.  This year, we’ll continue to support the York branch of the MND (Motor Neurone Disease) Association and York Against Cancer.

As the name would indicate, the Blue Light Theatre Company is no ordinary theatrical enterprise, especially when set against the backdrop of the pandemic. “Most of our cast either work for Yorkshire Ambulance Service or the NHS, so this show has already given us many challenges since I first wrote it in early 2020,” says Perri. 

“It has been, and continues to be, a very busy and trying time, and obtaining shift swaps to attend rehearsals hasn’t been easy. Our choreographer, Devon Wells, is expecting a baby, due any time now, which is exciting, but this meant we’ve had to set all the dance routines in a short space of time.

“That’s certainly tested the cast but Devon has managed to keep going with as much energy as always. That baby will definitely come out dancing!  We’re letting her have a rest now but she’ll be back in time for the show.”

Blue Light Theatre Company’s poster for next January’s pantomime, Once Upon A Time

The company has elected Julie Shrimpton as dance captain to keep things going while Devon is away. “Despite all the challenges, we are all loving being back together, performing and generally having fun, which is what panto is all about, and I hope that comes across in our performance in January,” says Perri.

“We’ve missed theatre so much in what’s been an awful time, but we’re delighted to be finally back rehearsing and it’s going really well. We can’t wait to welcome back our regular supporters and hopefully some new audience members too.”

Blue Lights’s fun-filled, fast-paced, time-travelling adventure, Once Upon A Time, will be performed at  Acomb Working Men’s Club on January 21 and 26 to 28 at 7.30pm, plus a January 22 matinee at 1pm.

How will the plot unfold, Perri, in this “completely original and brand-new story”? “The Fairy Godmother has lost her magic powers,” she says. “She enlists the help of a local inventor, and his new time machine, to go back in time in the hope of preventing the villainous Phillipe Fogg from stealing them, but will they succeed?

“This panto is a chance to witness the journeys of our weird and wonderful characters throughout time; sing and dance along to a vast array of music from different eras, and watch out for surprises, twists and turns along the way.”

Tickets will go on sale from Monday (25/10/202) at £10, concessions £8, children £5, at, on 07933 329654 or from cast members. A fund-raising raffle with prizes will be held at each performance.

Pantomime director Craig Barley, right, taking part in a dance rehearsal for Blue Light Theatre Company’s pantomime

After the green light for Blue Light and co’s Bag The Bug for the NHS, now comes the red light with 13,757 wash bags in the bag

The Blue Light Theatre Company’s pantomime costume maker, Christine Friend, turning her hand to sewing wash bags for NHS frontline workers

CHRISTINE Friend normally would be making costumes for The Blue Light Theatre Company’s pantomime in York. For the past eight weeks, she has been turning her skills instead to sewing for frontline workers in the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

She is among a group of volunteers from York, Harrogate and Knaresborough that has come together via Facebook to make uniform wash bags out of anything from pillowcases to old duvet covers.

Now the Facebook group Bag The Bug is being wound up because many of the sewers and supporters are going back to work today, having made a total of 13,757 wash bags to donate to care homes, NHS staff, GP surgeries, ambulance stations and hospitals.

“They’ve been making the bags for all our Blue Light Theatre NHS friends and their colleagues and I think it’s amazing they’ve reached that total in only eight weeks,” says Christine’s husband, Mark, actor and publicist for Blue Light Theatre, a company made up of paramedics, ambulance dispatchers, York Hospital staff and members of York’s theatre scene.

Joanne Halliwell and her daughter Abbey, who set up the Bag The Bug group for York, Harrogate and Knaresborough

“The idea is that after a shift, frontline workers can remove their uniform at work, put it straight into the bag, then close it tight and pop it into their washing machine when they get home to prevent cross-contamination.”

The Facebook group Bag The Bug – Covid 19 – York, Harrogate & Knaresborough was set up two months ago by Joanne Halliwell and her daughter Abbey. “They were wanting something to do during lockdown and found a group called Bag The Bug, based in the north west, who were making the bags for NHS staff in Bolton,” says Mark.

“They decided to make some bags too and after talking to the group’s coordinator, they set up a group locally.”

Adrian Deligny: One of the frontline workers who has received a Bag The Bug wash bag

They had an immediate response, from people asking for the bags, others offering to donate material, sew, help to coordinate Bag The Bug and drive for the group.

Among the care workers to receive a bag was Adrian Deligny, who said: “The uniform bag is an excellent idea in order to help stop the spread of the virus at home.

“Before this, I was putting everything in a bin bag, which wasn’t the best. It is important that during these difficult times everybody is united. This project has shown an unparalleled demonstration of solidarity and generosity. My wife and I are extremely grateful.”

Organisations requiring bags had to contact Joanne Halliwell via the group’s Facebook page or by emailing