DO you recognise anyone on this photograph?

It’s a charming photo of young dancers in an Alhambra pantomime, and was sent to us by T&A reader Neil Wade, who would like some information about the production.

Says Mr Wade: “My late wife, Marie James, is first left, bottom row. I reckon it would be about 1949/50.

“I’d like to know the name of the panto and who was principal boy and girl. Perhaps what the cast was wearing will help in identifying the pantomime.”

Following our recent feature looking back at the history of the Alhambra - which celebrated its 110th anniversary last week - Leorene Ashworth, another former panto dancer, got in touch.

Leorene, known as Leo, is now 90 and was in the Alhambra panto Humpty Dumpty back in 1950. Says Leo: “I was one of Francis Laidler’s chorus girls. The show starred Margery Manners and Bonnie Downs. We were the older dancers, and the Sunbeams were the younger ones with matching haircuts.

“I have very happy memories it. It seemed to go on a long time, I’m sure it was until Easter. We were given a wage, I remember it being £5 but that seems like an awful lot for back then. I gave my mother the money and she gave me five shillings back. I was from a family of nine.

“I wasn’t a trained dancer, but I could always dance. When I left school I worked as an usherettedat the old Odeon cinema in Bradford and one day I saw a piece of paper in the window at the Princes Theatre on Manchester Road. It said ‘Francis Laider wants dancers’ so I went along to the audition.”

After the panto Leo went on to tour Scotland with a troupe of dancers. “We were the Eileen Rogan Girls - known as the Tiller Girls of the North,” she recalls. “I went for the job with another girl from the panto, I got it because I was the tallest.

“Going to Scotland was the first time I’d been away from home. It was very interesting. The cast became my ‘family’.

“We stayed in lodgings, mostly they were good. We spent six weeks in Aberdeen and four in Edinburgh, where performed at the Empire, but mostly it was a week in each place.

“We also toured theatres in England, mostly in the North. It was a wonderful experience.

“I went on to become a nurse and worked in care homes and hospitals.”

But Leo has never forgotten her years as a dancing girl.

* The Alhambra opened on March 18, 1914 with a variety show which ran for a week.

The theatre was the vision of impresario Francis Laidler and it opened in the hey day of variety, delivering twice-nightly shows.

Known as the ‘King of Panto’, Laidler delivered pantomimes for half a century in his theatres in Bradford, Keighley, Leeds and London. He started junior dance troupe the Sunbeams in 1917 - calling them “a ray of darkness in the war years” - for a panto at the Prince’s Theatre in Little Horton. In 1930, the Sunbeams came to the Alhambra, when Laidler switched his pantos to the venue.

Emma Clayton

* If you have any information about the photo, or the panto, please email me at