I RECENTLY re-opened my two box files of theatre programmes, the oldest of which dates back to 1959.

They include a lot of local shows, and some major ones at London venues.

Probably the most seemingly insignificant of them all – and the most obscure – is a programme for a Bradford production entitled The Likes of Which. The comedy play was performed in 1965 at Church House, North Parade, by the Bradford Group Theater (sic). It has brought back some memories for me.

In late 1964 my mate Paul Adams and I were into church youth club shows and fancied learning a bit more about acting. I don’t know how we found out about it, but we decided we would like to visit the Bradford Group Theater which held sessions on the upper floors at 67 Westgate.

We turned up one midweek evening and were welcomed into the small assembled throng. The group’s leader was a chap called Michael Walker. I never found out a lot about his background, but later I would come to recognise several faces on the television as people with whom I had rubbed shoulders at that group.

Paul and I only attended the group for a couple of months, but it created such an impression on me in that short time.

Along with other beginners we did various group exercises and were instructed in how to enact different emotions such as happiness, pain and frustration. We listened to the more experienced members give tips on various acting techniques and shared personal experiences with each other.

Some of this is now quite vague, but I still remember several of the people who attended the Group Theater during our short period there. Some became professional actors. Some, like myself, did not pursue the training but got involved in other things.

One of the latter, I recall, was Tony Jowitt, who died a few years ago after becoming a respected local historian and academic in our area.

Who were the ones that turned professional?

There was Nickolas Simmonds. I saw him in minor roles on the television, and sadly saw his death notification in the Telegraph & Argus some years ago.

Edward Peel, a tall young man, later turned up in various films and northern productions, including the 1980s serialisation of All Creatures Great and Small.

Barry Hanson, a tall, formidable chap, had his particular claim to fame as the producer of the Bob Hoskins classic gangster film The Long Good Friday in 1980.

Stephanie Turner shot to fame as Inspector Jean Darblay in BBC TV’s Juliet Bravo in the early 1980s.

I remember during my time there trying to make conversation with a serious looking girl, who was wearing a black polo necked jumper. She wasn’t very forthcoming, and I didn’t see her again until she appeared on TV in the Dr Who series with Tom Baker. Her name was Mary Tamm. Her other appearances included the 1983 TV version of John Eyre which starred Timothy Dalton.

My programme for The Likes of Which contains some interesting information on the Group Theater. The first paragraph of the introduction reads ‘The most exciting venture in the North of England’. This was the recent summing up of Group Theater by a newspaper correspondent after spending an evening with us at Rose Bank (the group’s official headquarters in Manningham). ‘With theatre of this calibre,’ he wrote, ‘Bradford is in the midst of an artistic revolution of a fundamental nature - it is something that cannot be ignored.’

Peter Holdsworth, probably the Telegraph and Argus’ most famous theatre correspondent of recent years, heaped praise on the group’s production of Othello in which Michael Walker played the title role. He wrote: ‘The more I see of the work of the Group Theater the more convinced I become that so far as drama is concerned, it is the most significant enterprise since the days of Esme Church and the Northern Theatre School and the Shipley Young Theatre which nurtured Tony Richardson and several more who are now leading names with stage, films and television.’

Other notable productions of that period by the group included King Lear, with Michael Walker in the lead, Van Gogh, and the evergreen classic comedy Charley’s Aunt.

It is slightly frustrating that my programme does not contain the list of actors, only the character names, as I believe it was the group’s policy not to name names.

I have programmes from the likes of the London Palladium and other major theatres, including of course the Bradford Alhambra, but none has stirred up my memories like that modest little typed programme in my collection.

* Were you involved with Bradford Group Theater? hat are your memories? Email helen.mead@nqyne.co.uk