KINGFISHER PLAYERS
 
 
     
 
A Condensed History of The Kingfisher Players
(formerly Sandy Theatre Group)
By Chris Bashford
 
     
  In 1966 a small group of people gathered in what was then the Sandy Scouts meeting hut at the beginning of Windsor Way. This marked the humble beginnings of the Sandy Theatre Group. I had not long moved into the district but my wife Dorothy, knowing that I had long been involved with dramatics suggested that I went along. I don’t think she knew then what she was encouraging... Everyone present at that inaugural moment was highly enthusiastic to put on an Old Tyme Music Hall. It did not seem long, thanks to the driving force of one John Francey that we had the show on the road as it were. The first and only planned performance took place at the Conservative Club. It was a sell out and I don’t think those Club members trying to sit peacefully in the bar had ever seen anything like it before. The actors and actresses had to use the bar passageway to get from one side of backstage to the other, causing much amusement during the melodrama scene. That early success story certainly set Sandy Theatre Group on the road. We even had to put on a second showing the following week to satisfy demand and possibly some of the curiosity that our existence brought to the town!.  
     
  Our first President, one of the Sandy Town Councillors, said he would support us but felt certain that our endeavours would eventually fail as this sort of thing had been tried in Sandy before. Well, I think time and some 100 shows under our belts has fortunately shown this not to be the case. Sandy Theatre Group has been a success story all the way. Many well-known Sandy names trod the boards in the early days. With a high proportion of singers most productions revolved around Music Hall, Musicals and Pantomime. In more recent times Panto, comedy plays; revues and the occasional musical have become the norm.  
     
  Various venues have been used around the town with the main base being Sandye Place School and subsequently the Town Hall, now re-named The Roundabout Club. These eventually became unusable either due to cost or change of use and we had nowhere that we could call ‘home’. For a few years we took our activities to venues around the county such as village halls, hospitals and old folks homes. Thanks to one of our members we were put in touch with the Stuart Memorial Hall at Tempsford. This hall had a stage and in the distant past had been used quite extensively for entertainment of one sort or another. With the encouragement of Elaine Bettles, (the hall’s booking agent), we started back with a venue that looked as though it could become our new home. We have now been there for some 20 years. Although it is not actually in Sandy it is only a mere 10 minutes up the A1. Not only did it have the potential for well-staged productions; it also had space to store scenery and costumes. This was a far cry from the barns and garages we had been using!  
     
  Around 1994 Sandy Theatre Group renamed itself ‘The Kingfisher Players’. This was chosen partly due to the Kingfisher Way that passed through the district and partly due to our membership that now came from a broader area. Sadly John Francey, our true founder, passed away late 2007 and I am now the sole surviving member from those very early days of Sandy Theatre Group and although there have been many changes to its membership, its goals and the enjoyment provided stay basically the same. We have now had approximately 150 members through our books since we started. Several of these have gone professional and many have just moved on to pastures new. We try to continue with our regular Tuesday evening meetings throughout the year and we are now able to put on at least two shows a year. We also have generated enough material to be able to put on revues at other village venues.  
     
  I have tried to condense some forty years into a mere few minutes reading and one cannot do full justice with that degree of précis. I will say, however, that Kingfisher Players still try to provide as much family entertainment and enjoyment as ever. If anyone else out there seeks a rewarding activity away from the ‘box’ they will be always be made welcome at any time. We always need people who can sew, cut pieces of wood and paint as well as those who enjoy performing on stage.