THIS year, for the first time perhaps in the history of Bradford's Alhambra theatre, there are no Sunbeams on stage.

Due to Covid safety restrictions, the tradition of having young dancers in the Sunbeams troupe has been halted after more than a century.

The junior dancers were introduced by Francis Laidler, known as the 'King of Pantomime', who delivered half a century of pantos in his Bradford venues, and his theatres in Leeds, Keighley and London.

The theatre impresario started the Sunbeams for his production of Robin Hood in 1917 at the Prince's Theatre in Little Horton Lane. In 1930, the Sunbeams came to the Alhambra, when Laidler switched his pantos to the venue.

The Sunbeams were Bradford's "ray of sunshine in the darkness of the war years". The girls, with matching bobbed haircuts, were an instant hit with audiences. Recruited locally from open auditions, they often joined in with comic capers on stage.

Each girl had to meet strict height criteria and be "in perfect health, with evidence of six months regular school attendance".

Here we look back on the early days of the Sunbeams, with these charming images.