One of the longest running Swanage showbiz traditions – the annual evening of entertainment for charity – is returning again to The Mowlem in Dorset.
It first started out in a pub in Swanage to raise a bit of money for the charity Children in Need but more than 25 years later, it’s a full variety performance presented by Swanage Drama Company at The Mowlem and this year it’s on Saturday 11th November 2023.
An evening of variety at The Mowlem in Swanage
The show’s compere Simon Wells (left) with Ro Smith (right), a founder member who’s taking part again this year
Many very familiar faces
Attracting a loyal audience each year, the show will feature more than 40 performers, including many very familiar Swanage faces, who will also be spotted on The Mowlem stage in 2024 in the pantomime Cinderella and the musical Anything Goes.
Now established as an annual variety performance, it all grew from small beginnings. Founder member of the show, Ro Smith said:
“Many years ago – it must be about 25 years – we wanted to raise some money for Children in Need so a small group of us put on a show at the pub The Crows Nest in Ulwell Road, which was run then by Ian and Paula Dowdeswell.
“That happened for two years and then we moved to The Ship Inn in the High Street, run at the time by Sue Hartley, for another couple of years.
“As the show grew in size and popularity we ended up at The Mowlem but in the bar. In those days it had red velvet seats and a traditional theatre bar atmosphere. Then it got to the point where we had so many acts that we moved to the main auditorium and that’s where we’ve been for the last 10 years.”
Rehearsals are underway. Left to right: Swanage Drama Company performers John Attwood, James, Anthony, Becky Stares and Lizzy Yates
Performer James Chelton practises one of the musical numbers
Guest appearance from Pudsey Bear
For 2023, those taking part include Swanage Drama Company members, Allsort’d Choir, singer Karen G, and new for this year, the comedian Ryan.
There’s songs from the musicals, comedy sketches, poetry, tap dancing and the Line Up song which is back again by popular demand. There may also be a guest appearance from Pudsey Bear.
Making some sense of the chaos is the compere for the evening Simon Wells. He said:
“I may have been performing the role for the last 10 years but actually I haven’t really got a clue what I’m doing. One of our strengths, I think, is the lack of organisation! I do throw in a bit of performance poetry but quite often I write it all the night before!”
He then added with a smile:
“Since Ro got me to wear a pink tutu for the Line Up song, I’ve noticed there’s a clamour for the front row. You should see my arabesque, although it’s not quite the same since the knee op!”
Happy to pose for the camera! John Attwood (left) and Jacqueline Chater (right)
Swanage Drama Company member Becky Stares rehearses her solo
Raising money for a national and a local charity
While there’s lots of fun and laughter, the aim is also to raise money for charity.
Over the years, the annual performance has raised an estimated £20,000 for Children in Need but for 2023 the money will be split with the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance in memory of the Swanage Drama Company’s former treasurer John Mitchell who sadly died this year.
“The air ambulance was one of John’s favourite charities and we thought it would be nice to split the money between the national charity Children in Need and the local air ambulance. You never know when you may need the air ambulance and it provides such a vital service to our community.
“We’d really like everyone in Swanage to come and support us and have a laugh. It’s much better than the telly on a Saturday night which is very predictable – I can promise you we’re certainly not that!”
- Swanage Drama Company presents An Evening of Entertainment from 7.30 pm at The Mowlem on Saturday 11th November 2023. Book tickets via The Mowlem website