THE stars of Bolton’s vibrant theatre scene gathered for a night of real life drama as they celebrated the very best in amateur dramatics.

For it was the night of the BATS - Bolton Amateur Theatre Societies - Awards.

More than 200 guests enjoyed the red carpet treatment at the Holiday Inn.

Nominations and winners were a closely guarded secret until the actual ceremony.

Jenny Peters won Best Actress in a Comedy, for her performance of Lucy Fitton in All in Good Time.

The 70-year-old from Radcliffe is a member of St Paul’s Astley Bridge AODS, and has been acting in a wide range of productions for the past 40 years.

She said: “It is unbelievable. I did not expect it at all. The is my favourite character.

“I always enjoy this ceremony and this was the icing on the cake.”

Emma Norman was awarded Best Newcomer for her role as Abuela in The Heights by HATS.

The 43-year-old lives in Blackpool but came to Bolton to have a role in the play.

She said: “I have seen the show at the West End and this was the adult UK Premiere. That’s why I came to Bolton.

“This is my first show here and I am directing the next show Rent. Everybody in the society has been so welcoming – I was not expecting best newcomer.”

Joel Cheetham, aged 25, from Egerton, picked up Best Actor in a Drama for his role as 60s love-cheat Alfie in the famous play brought to Bolton by the Marco Players.

He said: “It feel phenomenal, I enjoyed playing the character, where he is naughty but the audience is rooting and not rooting for him at the same time. It was a surprise to win, it is a tough role and I thoroughly enjoyed it and I have to thank the cast for their support and my girlfriend.”

Joel wants to pursue a career in acting.

Louise Cohen could not be prouder of CATS, which walked away with Best Youth Production for Summer Holiday,

The director said: “I am so proud of them, it is all down to them – they worked so hard.”

Special awards given on the night were, the Mike Rodgers Award to Mike Taylor from Walmsley and the Lifetime Achievement Award to Allen Christey-Casson from The Operetta Company.

Allen, aged 66, who lives in Little Lever, said: “I was stunned , it is amazing. I didn’t expect it at all.

“I love creating theatre and the fulfilment it gives you. It gives people a sense of focus, discipline and team work. When I was 15 I could have taken two paths and I chose amateur theatre and it was the right path. I have made lifelong friends.”

BATS said that judging was extremely difficult given the high quality productions. Sponsors of the night were Fieldings Porter Solicitors.

Paul Cohen, chairman of BATS, said: “Allen has done so much for me since I was a young lad.

“To see him and Mike get the award was so emotional. These are people who do not seek the limelight and work so hard.

“This year the musical productions were outstanding, it was very hard to judge. You have to look at the interpretation, the costumes and Made in Dagenham had all that and the audience got involved, and felt a part of it.

“The pantos were fantastic, Stagedoor had a pony on stage at the end. The dramas were outstanding and to watch Alfie and Private Fears in Public Places, to think these actors have day jobs, this is a hobby for them.”

He added: “The societies we have in Bolton provide something for everyone. We have a good mix of ages at the awards.”

David Thacker, former artistic director of the Octagon and now professor of theatre and Patron of BATS was on stage to help hand out. He said: “We have the biggest amateur dramatic community in the country. The quality of work is incredible.

“Theatre is life-changing for people to know how others share the same hopes, fears and aspirations.”

but also for those who get involved.

“There may be people who wish to get involved but do not know how, or think it is a closed shop, but it is not. They might want to work backstage or act.

“If they don’t know how to get involved, they should email me and I will find them the society best for them.”

BATS Awards 2017 — all the winners and runners up

Best Newcomer: Emma Norman as Abuela In The Heights (HATS);

Runners-up: Joshua Parker as Fat Sam in Bugsy Malone (St Philips Junior Workshop)

Michael Davies as Troy Bolton in High School Musical (BCMCS)

Amber Sargent as Pippa in Spiders Web (Farnworth Little Theatre)

Best Choreography: Heather Hodgson for Thoroughly Modern Millie (Adlington Music and Arts)

Runners-up: Louise and Em Cohen for Anything Goes (CATS Youth Theatre)

Lorraine Robinson and Gemma Marr for In The Heights (Hats)

Best Set and Costume Design Technical Award: Alan Dodd and Simon White, for outstanding construction of a London Bus in Summer Holiday (CATS Youth Theatre)

Runners-up: Stagedoor Productions for outstanding costumes in Cinderella (Stagedoor Productions)

Walmsley Church AODS for best set in Oliver (Walmsley AODS)

St Paul’s Players (Adlington) for best set in Made in Dagenham (St Paul’s Players)

Best Actor in Comedy: Andrew Close as Fred in Bedroom Farce (Farnworth Little Theatre)

Runners-up: Adam Syddall as Billy Wigley in Twelfth Man (Christ Church Players)

Clive McCoy as Henry Horatio Hobson in Hobson’s Choice (Phoenix Theatre Company)

Glenn Robinson as Neville in Third Week in August (Bolton Little Theatre)

Best Actress in Comedy: Jenny Peters as Lucy Fitton in All in Good Time (St Paul’s Astley Bridge ADOS)

Runners-up: Barbara Mayers as Yvonne in Cheshire Cats (St Joseph’s Players)

Carly Lomax as Eveline in Absent Friend (Tyldesley Little Theatre)

Ruth Sydall as Maggie Hobson in Hobson’’s Choice (Phoenix Theatre Company)

Best Actor in a Musical: Steve Benson as Fagin in Oliver (Walmsley AODS)

Runners-up: Joe Foster as Jesus in Godspell (BCMCS)

Kit Philips as Usnavi In The Heights (HATS)

Jonny Cunliffe as Anatoly Sergievsky in Chess (Adlington Music and Arts)

Best Actress in a Musical: Beth Eccleshare as Rita O’Grady in Made in Dagenham (St Paul’s Players)

Runners-up: Rebecca Crookson as Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie (Adlington Music and Arts)

Natalie Crompton as Daniela In The Heights (HATS)

Amelia Atherton as The Arbiter in Chess (Adlington Music and Arts)

Best Actor in Drama: Joel Cheetham as Alfie in Alfie (The Marco Players)

Runners-up: Peter Scofield as Sir Wilfred Robarts in Witness for the Prosecution (Bolton Little Theatre)

Martin Pearce as Dr Farquhar in Mindgame (The Marco Players)

John Whitehead as Lt Col Nathan Jessop in A Few Good Men (Phoenix Theatre Company)

Best Actress in Drama: Joy Plowes as Charlotte in Private Fears in Public Places (Phoenix Theatre Company)

Runners-up: Clare Nash as Carla Crale in Go Back for Murder (St Joseph’s Players)

Natalie Crompton as Helga in Kindertransport (The Marco Players)

Katie Waller as Norma in Be My Baby (Bolton Little Theatre)

Best Panto: Cinderella (Stagedoor Productions)

Runners-up: Cinderella (Bolton Little Theatre)

Jack and the Beanstalk (St Paul’s Players)

Treasure Island (Tyldesley Little Theatre)

Best Junior Production: High School Musical by BCMCS

Runners-up: Bugsy Malone by St Paul’s Players

Best Youth Production: Summer Holiday by CATS Youth Theatre

Runners-up: Anything Goes by CATS Youth Theatre

Best Comedy: All in Good Time (St Paul’s Astley Bridge AODS)

Runners-up: Cheshire Cats (St Joseph’s Players)

Tons of Money (The Marco Players)

Hobson’s Choice (Phoenix Theatre Company)

Best Drama: Be My Baby (Bolton Little Theatre)

Runners-up: Separate Tables (Farnworth Little Theatre)

Alfie (The Marco Players)

The Turn of the Screw (Farnworth Little Theatre)

Best Musical: Made in Dagenham (St Paul’s Players)

Runners-up: In the Heights (HATS)

Godspell (BCMCS)

Chess (Adlington Music and Arts)

Mike Rodgers Award: Mike Taylor of Walmsley

Lifetime Achievement Award: Allen Christey-Casson of The Operetta Company