Tributes have been paid to a “passionate” theatre actor who brought something special to the stage.

Sandra Leatherbarrow – also known by her maiden name Simpson – from Heaton, died at the age of 80, peacefully with her family on Friday October 13 after suffering a stroke during rehearsals at Bolton Little Theatre (BLT) on Thursday October 12.

She took on a number of roles during her time with Bolton Amateur Theatre Society and she was directing BLT’s latest production of Blue Stockings.

Sandra had an interest in costumes and staging to bring stories to life, and 'always' went out of her way to help anyone.

Friend Carol Butler – who is also on the board of directors for BLT – says she was a “dear friend” to many.

She said: “Sandra was a dear friend of many years and adventures.

“Some of us, together with Sandra, travelled down to Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London many times for weekend workshops.

“I, personally, have worked with her many times including her last play at BLT ‘Kiss Me Like You Mean It’.

The Bolton News: Sandra Leatherbarrow in the middle presenting a cheque for £2,231 to Henshaws staff Justine Watson Smith and Suzie Bunn in 2018Sandra Leatherbarrow in the middle presenting a cheque for £2,231 to Henshaws staff Justine Watson Smith and Suzie Bunn in 2018 (Image: Public)

“We are still in shock but determined that Blue Stockings, and the LTG (Little Theatre Guild) northern conference will go ahead this weekend just as she would have wished.”

The cast and crew of Blue Stockings - which opens on Saturday - were shocked and saddened when they heard that Sandra had died unexpectedly.

Box office manager and cast member Frances Clemmitt said: “Sandra was probably my oldest friend at the theatre.

“I’m still coming to terms with it to be honest.

“She’ll leave a huge hole in all our lives.” 

Paul Cohen, Chairman of Bolton Amateur Theatre Society, said he was ‘shocked’ by the tragic death.

He said: “She was on the committee and gave the opportunity to bring plays to the theatre which were a bit obscure.

“She always wanted the theatre to do well and entertain the audience, she had an interest in costuming, and she was always clear about what she wanted.

“Staging was one of her interests, she wanted to bring the audience in.

“It was a shock to hear, she was someone who was very passionate.

“She was always there to help, it’s just very sad.

“Sandra made life-long friends at the theatre.

The Bolton News: Sandra Leatherbarrow on the left at Bolton Golf Club as a captain during a cocktail party at the club Sandra Leatherbarrow on the left at Bolton Golf Club as a captain during a cocktail party at the club (Image: Dominic holden)

“She also did a lot for the Octagon, and she always put up actors performing at the Octagon.

“She always wanted to help others and she would always go the extra mile to help everybody.

“Sandra will be sorely missed, and her creativity will be sorely missed.

“What she brought to Bolton will be remembered years to come.”

The play by Jessica Swale recounts the battle for women’s education and the fight for the right to obtain a university degree at Girton College, Cambridge, and had been chosen specifically by Sandra as a theme close to her heart.

Peter Scofield - who portrays ‘Dr Maudsley’ in the play – said: “Sandra was on our play production committee for many years, so she had a hand on choosing the whole season actually, but this was the one she most wanted to direct.”

Chairman David Smart added: “Fortunately, with an experienced director in the cast such as Peter we were able to rally and get the play ready for opening night.

“But it goes without saying what a huge shock it’s been for all of us.

“In the end we decided we couldn’t let all her hard work go to waste.

 “We just had to pull ourselves together and go ahead with staging it in the best way we could in Sandra’s memory.”   

Anna Tomkinson - who plays Tess - said: “She was a strong woman herself, and I think she identified with the single mindedness in my character’s struggle for academic recognition. 

In a statement from Bolton Little Theatre (BLT), they said: “It is with great sadness that we inform our wider circle of friends of the sudden death of Sandra Leatherbarrow.

“She suffered a stroke in rehearsal for Blue Stockings at BLT on Thursday night and was taken to Salford Royal Hospital and passed away peacefully with her family.

“We are all shocked. Our deepest condolences go out to her family.

“She died doing what she loved, where she loved to be and with friends to care for her.”

Blue Stockings runs from Saturday October 21 until Saturday October 28, 2023, at 7:30 pm (with a matinée performance on Sunday October 22) at Bolton Little Theatre, Hanover Street, Bolton BL1 4TG.

For tickets visit the BLT website or ring 01204 524469. 

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