Teaching youngsters a life-long love of the performing arts

Sally and David Allsopp of Leighton Buzzard Children's Theatre
Sally and David Allsopp of Leighton Buzzard Children's Theatre

Sally and David Allsopp will always have a soft spot for The Mikado.

It’s the show that brought them together when they were teenagers at Queensbury School in Dunstable.

“He was Nanki Poo and I was Yum Yum,” Sally, 52, smiled. “We shared a love of music.”

He went on to the Royal Academy of Music and she read drama and music at Middlesex University.

David’s now an IT manager for the charity World Vision while Sally teaches drama at Vandyke Upper School.

But together they’re the inspiration behind Leighton Buzzard Children’s Theatre (LBCT), a community group that celebrated its 20th anniversary last year and which continues to go from strength to strength.

“It all started when our children were little,” Sally recalled. “We were asked to put on a show for an old people’s annual party.

“We thought it a waste to do just one so we also held a public performance. That was seen by Andy Collier, who ran the children’s theatre at the time, and he asked us to take over.”

It was a big commitment and they recruited aspiring young thespians with the promise of a Mars Bar if they attended Tuesday night classes with a friend.

Numbers built up incredibly quickly – they’ve now got more than 150 youngsters on the books. Ages range from four to 18 and the Advanced Theatre Company is a recent innovation for the group’s young adults, many of whom joined as children.

David, 53, is LBCT’s musical director and Sally thinks he’s brilliant. “He’s very calm and teaches the children how to harmonise, which is really difficult,” she explained. “He also tries to stretch individual talent as much as he can.

“We want the children to enjoy themselves, to be relaxed about theatre. We’re a community group that raises money for charity and we encourage the children to tell us which ones they’d like to support. Our recent Sing Out Against Cancer raised more than £3,000.”

They try to be minimalistic with costumes and technical elements to cut costs.

The couple, who live in Heath and Reach, have four children. Their oldest daugher, Lissie, 23, is studying opera at the acclaimed Associated Studios Performing Arts Academy.

Sally said: “We’re always looking for new ideas and new volunteers. We’ll be working with the National Theatre and performing at a big festival in Northampton later this year, and our young group is putting on Bugsy Malone in June.”

> Details at www.lbct.org