As amateur dramatic societies get the right to stage the hit show, the poignant stories and courageous joie de vivre of… The New Calendar Girls
13:05 GMT, 7 September 2012
Julie Hunter, 52, a hospital therapy manager, is directing and acting in the Cannock Chase Drama Society's production at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Cannock, Staffordshire, this month (below).
The cast are all good friends and we've all been on strict diets for the past eight months to get into shape — the audience doesn't want to see too many wobbly bits.
I've lost half a stone so far, and hope to shed a bit more. I was anxious about taking my clothes off in front of so many people, but luckily I've got a catering trolley laden with Danish pastries, chocolate eclairs and Belgium iced buns to hide my modesty in the scene where I'm posing nude for the calendar.
We've been rehearsing in the local
social club to save money and have had to shoo away men from the village
who walk past and try to have a peek at what we're up to.
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Cannock Chase Drama Society Calendar Girls: (Left to right) Julie Hunter, Natasha McCulloch, Jane Lake, Louise Hewitt, (sat) Linda Askew, Helen Cartwright, Vicky Evans, Sarah Diamond
Jane Ellison-Bates, 48, starred in the first amateur production a week ago, by the Grassington Players at the Devonshire Institute (below).
Jane, who runs a PR company, performs with her partner, Mark Bamforth, a 52-year-old sales director.
I said to the girls at our first rehearsal: 'Right, come on, get those knickers off!' The play is great for instilling confidence in middle-aged women. I haven't felt jealous of Mark seeing the other ladies.
The Grassington Players at the Devonshire Institute
Louise Mappley's 78-year-old mother, Beryl Bamforth, was Miss January in the original calendar in 2000.
Louise, a 45-year-old administrator, is performing in the Beaconsfield Theatre Group's November production in Buckinghamshire (below).
I asked not to play Jessie, the role based on my mother. I would have
been too worried about doing a terrible impression of her.
She wasn't nervous taking her
clothes off — they were desperate to raise the money — and because they
made it feel fun. Also, I've lost four stone over the past two years, so
this has felt like a celebration of that.
Beaconsfield Theatre Group: Ann Wyllie (knitting), Evie Frith (pianist), Muriel Carpenter (big hat), Wendy Huntley (large single sunflower), Louise Mappley (bunch of sunflowers), Lesley Baker (short dark hair)
Housewife Simone Haseley, 41, is starring in October's production at the Studio Theatre in Salisbury (below).
She lives with lawyer husband Simon, 41, and their daughter Isabel, 18 months.
Disrobing in front of each other felt strangely liberating and I've since felt more comfortable with how I look. I'm most nervous about my 68-year-old dad Paul seeing me on the night!
Studio Theatre, Salisbury: (Left to right) Linda Luetchford, Helen Russel, Simone Haseley, Jackie Pilkington, Val Greathead, Sarah Kirkpatrick
Housewife Josie Porter, 60, is married to John, 61, and is appearing in the Hurstpierpoint Players' production in West Sussex this month (below).
To build up courage to strip off, I invited everyone to my house to use my hot tub for an unofficial rehearsal. We opened the Pimm's, banned husbands and had a hilarious time.
Initially, I had been reluctant to be in the production. I was nervous about bumping into people on the High Street who had seen me nude. But once we agreed to raise money for the Sussex Cancer Fund, I knew it would be worth it.
My husband has been very supportive and he, my son, his girlfriend and my sister-in-law will be sitting on the front row at opening night. Provided I keep my buns in place I shouldn't be revealing too much!
Players Theatre, Hurstpierpoint, Sussex: (Left to right) Lyn Snowdon, Sue Blair-Fish, Linda Burton, Nicky David, Josie Porter, Sue Wicks
Retired accounts clerk Valerie King, 75, is in the Two Rivers Theatre Company production at Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich, this month (below).
My husband, Peter, died from lung cancer two years ago. He always used to say 'life is no rehearsal' and that you should throw yourself into everything. I've taken his advice with this play.
As this is my first time on stage, it's been hard learning all the lines, but having my sister, Kay Friars, 66, directing has helped. I know Peter would have had a great laugh if he could see us all and he'd be pleased we're raising money for a local children's hospice, Each, and St Elizabeth Hospice.
Some of the sadder scenes get to me, it all feels quite fresh still, but I stop myself crying for the sake of the other girls.
I wasn't nervous about taking my clothes off. The worst part has been wearing a thong — the only piece of underwear small enough not to be seen in the nude scenes — for the first time aged 75!
The Two Rivers Theatre Group, Ipswich: Kay Friars, director, seated at piano with (left to right) Jo Wilson, Val King, Jane Watts, Georgy Jamieson, Sandie Finbow, Emma Adams and Val Eldridge
Retired midwife Kate Bond, 61, is in the Kingswood Players' production in Bristol next month (below). Her husband, credit controller Richard, 63, is directing.
I put my oar in more than I should with my husband directing, which means we've had a few spats. Taking my clothes off has been the most fun.
We're far from the sort of women who would normally do something like this, so there's been a lot of laughter.
Kingswood Players' production will open in Bristol next month
Video: The Grassington Players perform Calendar Girls