THE red carpet was rolled out in Bolton on Friday night to welcome the stars of the town’s amateur dramatic world.

Members from theatre groups descended on the Holiday Inn for the annual Bolton Amateur Theatre Societies (BATS) awards.

More than 250 people enjoyed the glitzy presentation night which celebrates the best talent to tread the boards over the past 12 months.

Packed tables of revellers made rousing cheers of delight as they applauded winners and nominees.

David Thacker, professor of theatre at the University of Bolton, got the celebrations off to a good start by announcing that Bats members would soon be able to use performance spaces at the university’s Farnworth facilities as part of the ongoing partnership between the society and the university.

He said: “There’s no one more passionate about theatre than the people in this room.

“We should all here celebrate the magnificence of Bolton amateur theatre. It’s quite incredible.
“There are 32 societies in Bolton, that in itself is extraordinary. I can’t believe there is another town in the country which can boast that many.

“Between you, you have created 62 productions this year of plays, pantomimes, musicals and concerts, with about 1,500 people participating – people whose lives that have been touched and enhanced by what you’ve done – and that is not to mention the people who have seen your work.”

The awards dinner was held for the first time in 12 years in Bolton town centre.

The hotel’s Cloisters Suite, a converted 1512 Catholic church, provided a suitably dramatic setting for the three-course meal and ceremony, with awards being handed out by BATS chairman Paul Cohen, colleague Jason Crompton and Mr Thacker.

Among the winners was 18-year-old Rebecca Crookson, of Adlington Music and Arts, who won Best Actress in a Musical.

With tears in her eyes, she said: “I didn’t even expect to get nominated. I’m so happy.

“Everyone worked so hard to make the show a success, it was 100 per cent a team effort.

“This is the first time I’ve come to the awards ceremony. I’ve been doing shows for more than 10 years, since I was six. I’m just extremely pleased.”

Sam Hill, aged 16 of the BCMCS Youth, was equally ecstatic when he collected the Best Junior Youth Production award for the team alongside 15-year-old Charlotte James and Olivia Longworth, aged 13.

Sam said: “We don’t normally win, this is our first award. Everyone worked really hard on the show.”

Fellow Marco Players Natalie Crompton and Martin Pearce celebrated winning the awards for Best Actress and Actor in a Comedy.

Mr Pearce, aged 46, whose portrayal of Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers earned him the accolade, said: “We are absolutely delighted. It was hard work but a lot of fun and we got a great reaction from the audience for the shows.

“It was a dream come true part.”

As well as awards for acting, production and technical, two special awards were handed out on the night.

Long-running Bats member Leonard Powell won the Michael Rodgers Award while Bats co-founder David Morlidge spoke of the shock of receiving the Lifetime Achievement award.

He said: “This is totally unexpected. I really do not feel I deserve it compared to other more senior members of the society who are here tonight.

“These past two to three years some big societies have lost the spaces where they used to perform. We need a community theatre, but there is commitment and enthusiasm in the society and that is how the show goes on.”

Mr Cohen also praised the spirit of the society’s members shown not only that evening but all year round.

He said: “We are very pleased with how this evening has gone, the feedback has been brilliant.

“The fact is, there are so many people here celebrating and fighting on and presenting good amateur dramatics.

“The young people are amazing. They are the ones to take it forward while the older people are the foundations. There are some fantastic opportunities ahead.”

Bolton Amateur Theatre Societies (BATS) awards

Best Newcomer: Jordan Rising (Phoenix Theatre Company) and Hannah Boardman (Tyldesley Little Theatre).
Best Choreography: Louise Cohen/Em Cohen (CATS) for Fame.
Runners-up: Walmsley Church AODS for White Christmas, Bolton Little Theatre for Jack and the Beanstalk, The Three Towns Operatic Society for Waltzes from Vienna.
Best Set & Costume Design Technical Award: Sara Hassall (Farnworth Little Theatre) for her set design for both Snake in the Grass and Come Blow Your Horn.
Runners-up: St Philips AODS’s costumes in The King and I, Terry Mccabe/Jim Reynolds’s set in Harvey (St Joseph's Players), Peter Haslam’s set in Neville's Island (Phoenix Theatre Company), Stephen Pilkington’s set in Noises Off (Adlington Music and Arts) and New Rosemere AOS for Iothanthie.
Best Actor in a Comedy: Martin Pearce, Fawlty Towers (The Marco Players).
Runners-up: Richard Leigh, Fawlty Towers (The Marco Players), Ian Duckworth, It Runs In The Family (St Paul's Astley Bridge), Ben Latham, Noises Off (Adlington Music and Arts), Matt Seber, Neville's Island (Phoenix Theatre Company), and Carl Bottomley, Funny Money (St Paul's Astley Bridge).
Best Actress in Comedy: Natalie Crompton, Two (The Marco Players).
Runners-up: Sandra Blyth, Family Planning (Farnworth Performing Arts), Rebecca Crookson, Noises Off (Adlington Music and Arts), Joyce Smith, The Game (Farnworth Little Theatre), Andrea Peters, Par for the Course (Tyldesley Little Theatre), and Trisha Shorten (St Vincents ADS).
Best Actor in a Musical: Christian Brabin, Spelling Bee (St Paul's Players Adlington).
Runners-up: Steve Benson, White Christmas (Walmsley Church AODS), Robin Armstrong, Spelling Bee (St Paul's Players Adlington), Dean Simons, Me & My Girl (Five Saints), Colin Magenty, The New Moon (The Operetta Company), and Jamie Fletcher, Me and My Girl (Five Saints).
Best Actress in a Musical: Rebecca Crookson, 9-5 (Adlington Music and Arts).
Runners-up: Vicky Armstrong, Into The Woods (HATS), Hannah Carolan, Iothanthie (New Rosemere AOS), Victoria Goulden, Waltzes from Vienna (The Three Towns Operatic Society), Laura Foster, Me & My Girl (Five Saints), and Beth Eccleshare, Legally Blonde (St Paul's Players Adlington).
Best Actor in a Drama: Peter Schofield, Taking Sides (Bolton Little Theatre).
Runners-up: Joel Cheetham, All My Sons (The Marco Players), Scott Alker, Rumours (St Vincent's ADS), Connor Parkinson, Edge of Darkness (Tyldesley Little Theatre), Paul Jameson, 84 Charing Cross Road (St Joseph's Players), and Stephen Davies, Enlightenment (Bolton Little Theatre).
Best Actress in a Drama: Joyce Smith, Spring & Port Wine (Phoenix Theatre Company).
Runners-up: Joy Plowes, Flarepath (Farnworth Little Theatre), Sharon Shaw, All My Sons (The Marco Players), Elaine Nuttall, Cat's Cradle (Phoenix Theatre Company), Clare Nash, The Late Edwina Black (St Joseph's Players), and Kimberley Riley Shipperbottom, The Thrill of Love (Bolton Little Theatre).
Best Panto: Jack and the Beanstalk (Bolton Little Theatre).
Runners-up: Robin Hood and Babes in the Wood (Tyldesley Little Theatre), Goldilocks & The Three Bears (Stagedoor Theatre Productions), Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs (Victoria Hall ADS), and Dick Whittington (St Paul's Players Adlington).
Best Youth Junior Production: Honk (BCMCS Youth).
Best Youth production: Fame (CATS).
Runners-up: Ye Ha (BCMCS Youth), Our Day Out (St Philips Junior Workshop), and Footloose (CATS).
Best Comedy: Noises Off (Adlington Music and Arts).
Runners-up: Two (The Marco Players), Fawlty Towers (The Marco Players), Neville's Island (Phoenix Theatre Company), The Game (Farnworth Little Theatre), and Out of Sight Out of Murder (Christ Church Players).
Best Drama: All My Sons (The Marco Players).
Runners-up: Spring and Port Wine (Phoenix Theatre Company), Taking Sides (Bolton Little Theatre), Cat's Cradle (Phoenix Theatre Company), The Late Edwina Black (St Joseph's Players), and Edge of Darkness (Tyldesley Little Theatre).
Best Musical: White Christmas (Walmsley Church AODS).
Runners-up: 9 to 5 (Adlington Music and Arts), Into The Woods (HATS), Spelling Bee (St Paul's Players Adlington), Iolanthie (New Rosemere AOS), and Legally Blonde (St Paul's Players Adlington).