FRANK Rushworth spent most of his life in local theatre - and he documented it all in a series of scrapbooks.

He kept programmes, newspaper cuttings and photographs of productions he was in at Bingley Little Theatre and other local societies, dating back to the early 20th century.

Now his family has handed over his scrapbooks to Bingley Little Theatre to keep in its archive. The memorabilia lovingly amassed by Frank over the years is a fascinating glimpse into the district’s rich amateur theatre heritage.

When Frank died in 1995 his scrapbooks were given to his nieces. In August this year Bingley Little Theatre (BLT) received a Facebook message from Michele Abendstern, Frank’s great niece, asking if the society was interested in having the memorabilia. “It seems a shame to have it sitting in a box here,” she wrote.

Judy Brushett, chair of BLT’s publicity committee, contacted Michele. The memorabilia turned out to be three scrapbooks filled with programmes, cuttings and photos of Frank during his time as a member of BLT and other local societies going back to 1925. Judy met with Michele, following socially distancing guidelines, to look at and accept the scrapbooks.

Says Michele: “Bingley Little Theatre was a huge part of Frank’s life - it combined lasting friendships with a love of theatre. I’m so thrilled that BLT is going to keep all Frank’s collection and I know my mother would be delighted too. Frank was just a very lovely, warm, fun-loving man, with a wonderful sense of humour, who made my sister, Jeanette and I always feel special.”

Frank was born on December 23, 1905 and lived for most of his life in Shipley. His interest in drama began when he left school aged 15 and was working in a solicitor’s office. He started going to theatres in Bradford and began to appreciate the works of Shakespeare. Say his family: “He saw actors like Henry Painton and Sir Frank Benson and would come home ‘with that wonderful language boiling inside me’.

“In Frank’s youth there were no less than five theatres in Bradford - the Alhambra, the Princess Theatre, the Theatre Royal, the Empire and The Palace,” says Michele’s sister, Jeanette. “He remembered seeing Houdini at The Empire and someone called Vesta Tilly on her farewell tour. Seeing Frank’s enthusiasm for the theatre, his parents paid for him to have elocution lessons and soon he was giving poetry recitals and taking part in amateur dramatics.”

Throughout his adult life, wherever he was living and working, Frank sought opportunities to act. When he went to live in Rochdale for a while, within three days of arriving he’d joined the town’s Curtain Theatre. In 1940 he moved to Skipton and joined the Skipton Players. In 1942 he joined the RAF and was posted to Rhodesia, and he acted there too, once hostilities had begun to abate. Whilst still with the RAF he joined the Cranbourne Players in Salisbury.

Frank never married and, says his family, perhaps looked on his great nieces, Michele and Jeanette, as the children he never had. He was an active member of Bingley Little Theatre for many years. His first role was in Devil’s Disciple in 1946 and his last, around 1985, was in Crown Matrimonial. Michele and Jeanette recall seeing Frank in many productions in the late 1960s and 1970s, both at BLT’s former premises in Victoria Hall and its current home, Bingley Arts Centre.

They fondly remember their great uncle as full of enthusiasm for the theatre. Recalls Michele: “One summer the whole family went on a canal boat holiday. At Frank’s instigation, every evening was spent reading Under Milk Wood. All the family were given parts to read - a great time was had by all!”

Adds Jeanette: “I remember Frank’s boundless enthusiasm, which couldn’t help but rub off, and he always supported and encouraged us in our interests. I remember his tongue-in-cheek humour and sense of fun, to which he put his acting talents to good effect.”

After taking early retirement, aged 58, from the Yorkshire Penny Bank, Frank attempted to further his acting career. He sold his car to raise some money and enrolled on an acting course at the Northern College of Music in Manchester, travelling from Shipley four days a week. Says Michele: “Apart from spraining his Achilles tendon learning to fence alongside the other students, who were aged between 18-25, he described it as a wonderful experience!”

For the last two years of his life Frank lived with dementia. During this time Jeanette spent a lot of time with him and together they went through his memorabilia, which is how his scrapbooks, filled with treasured photos and programmes, were found. Frank died on November 27, 1995 shortly before his 90th birthday. Michele and Jeanette are the last generation of the family who knew him and they’re delighted that BLT is now home to his memories: “We’re thrilled to donate these scrapbooks to Bingley Little Theatre. We wish it a long future to match its remarkable past.”

* Do you remember Frank at BLT? Get in touch at or