AMATEUR dramatic and operatic societies are sometimes overlooked but they are a key element of strengthening a sense of community in these increasingly insular times.

Shop assistants, teachers, bin men – in fact people from every walk of life – are given an outlet for their creative urges and provide high-quality affordable cultural nourishment for their audiences.

We are lucky in Bolton to have so many groups and societies and one of them, Three Towns, recently rewarded its members’ efforts and commitment at its annual awards evening and dinner.

In recognition of an outstanding contribution to the society, the Margaret Dakin Memorial Award was presented to Ann Batchelor, chairman of the Three Towns.

Musical director Rod Dakin, who presented her with the award, said: “When Ann became chairman at the Three Towns she developed her own effective and highly individual style of leadership. She is prepared to take on tasks that nobody else seems prepared to tackle. She always thinks of what is best for the society and its members and takes that responsibility very seriously.”

Ann herself presented some of the awards at the evening held in Leigh Masonic Hall. Rupert Rees and Richard Lewis received the National Operatic and Dramatic Association long service awards for 30 years and 15 years’ service, respectively.

There was a poignant note to the evening with the retirement of Rod Dakin who has been the musical director for 23 years.

Mr Dakin said: “Instrumental to achieving success is working with a director who understands music and movement, working with David Kay for 19 shows has proved an excellent partnership.

“Essential, is a good pianist who excels in modern and traditional styles and a second pianist who works with the soloists. I would like to thank Nicola Dagnall and Gavin Richardson for their dedication.”

Mr Dakin originally joined the society for 12 months but he said, it was the “musicality and standard of excellence due to dedication,” that resulted in him remaining for almost a quarter of a century.

Following its recent production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, the society is now in rehearsal for its annual concert which will take place on Friday 22 and Saturday 23 of November at St Joseph’s Hall, Leigh.

It will feature a variety of show songs, favourites from Broadway and the West End in a relaxed cabaret setting.