NORA Howcroft’s life unravels like one of the glorious musicals that she so loves and has spent all her adult life helping create.

It has all the highs and lows, the seminal moments, the uplifting experiences – with music and laughter running through its core.

Nora was born in Clifton, Salford, to a family of three children. Her father was a motor mechanic with a love of musical theatre that meant there was always music around the home. The family also enjoyed frequent trips to the Manchester theatres and to Salford and Hulme hippodromes to enjoy shows and touring singers.

Her introduction to performing came early thanks to a church production of The Nativity in which Nora played a shepherd. As she grew up, as well as a love of acting, she also had a pleasing alto voice. As a result, she joined with two friends to form singing group The Cliftones, playing in local clubs including dates in Bolton with the Johnny Fox band.

She joined the Pendlebury Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society – an early introduction to what became an important influence in her life. She was also a member of the Swinton and Kearsley societies and her first part for the latter was playing Annie in Annie Get Your Gun.

When she was in her early 20s, her family moved to live in Bolton and Nora joined St Phillip’s operatic society. One day, she was in the wings watching rehearsals for Call Me Madam when the male chorus came onstage. “I noticed the back of the head of one of them – I hadn’t even seen his face at this time – and I said to myself ‘I’m going to marry him’,” she recalled. The “him” in question was Don Howcroft who was to become her leading man both onstage and in life.

They married when Nora was 35 and Don was 42 and moved to Egerton where, predictably, the couple both joined Bolton Operatic Society which then put on its shows at the Octagon Theatre.

They also joined the well-established society near their home, Walmsley Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society.

Always as happy behind the scenes as centre-stage. Nora had already started directing, putting on productions like Hello, Dolly for the local guides and brownies. At Walmsley, though, she continued her performing initially, taking the role of Nancy in Oliver! with Don as the Artful Dodger. She has reprised this particular role four times and it remains her favourite of all time.

This was the start of an enduring amateur career with the Walmsley society that has seen her both performing in and directing productions. As happens in the amateur theatre world, societies see individuals in other societies’ productions and invite them to take part in theirs. As a result Nora, and Don, performed in many amateur societies’ shows across Bolton.

“We’re very lucky in Bolton because here we have a town full of local amateur operatic and dramatic societies and groaning with talent,” she stated.

She and Don, however, extended their performing skills by signing with an agency as “extras”, having walk-on parts in popular series like Coronation Street and Heartbeat. For one memorable TV series involving Dame Edna Everage creator Barry Humphries, the couple were the King and Queen of Norway, enjoying a cycling holiday in the UK!

They also made it onto mainstream TV via the Food Glorious Food series where Don’s creation of Smoked Salmon Cheesecake nearly won the cookery programme’s final.

Don, however, had suffered from Crohn’s Disease all his life and had been in and out of hospital. His health deteriorated last year and he died peacefully 15 months ago at the age of 85.

Nora, now a vital and busy 78, continues the legacy the couple created together. The NoHow production company she started is still putting on entertaining shows and Nora’s commitment to the Walmsley society – where she is chairperson - is as strong as ever. Last week, the society put on Kiss Me Kate and this week, it’s Stephen Sondheim’s Follies – “no, they don’t get a rest!” laughed Nora.

Her directorial skills were recognised last year when she won the National Operatic and Dramatic Association’s Best Director in a Musical award for Walmsley’s production of White Christmas.

So, what makes a top amateur director? “You have to know the show inside out,” stated Nora, “and appreciate what performers can do. I never ask anyone to do what I can’t do – whether that’s learning to walk a tightrope or fencing.”

And if that doesn’t tell you how Nora Howcroft’s enduring spirit has created a dramatic performance of her life, then nothing does.