By Jenni Moulson
THE return of tea dances at the Sun Pavilion is nostalgic for many, not least co-organiser Barbara Simpson.
Barbara, together with Mike Hine, has been the driving force behind the new season of afternoon tea dances to raise money for the Royal Hall Restoration Trust and her involvement has revived many happy memories of her early singing career.
Barbara became a familiar face at the Valley Gardens venue in its heyday, starring on Wednesday nights in Rendezvous with Barbara.
Before long, she was catapulted into the big time when Tom Arnold chose her to play principal boy in Mother Goose at Leeds Grand Theatre.
After a 26 week season, she went on to play principal boy at The Lyceum, Sheffield, Blackpool Winter Gardens and a number of London venues before singing in two Ken Dodd Spectacular seasons and 18 televised shows of The Good Old Days.
She returned to the Sun Pavilion after joining forces with Ernest Clough to create a popular singing duo and the pair ran a summer season of entertainment in partnership with Harrogate Resort Services. They even made a record there which is now available on CD.
Tony Bryant, who was resort director at the time, suggested they formed an agency and Barbara started to book top artists like Bob Monkhouse, Ken Dodd, Des O’Connor, Jimmy Tarbuck, Harry Secombe and many more.
Barbara has a close association with the Sun Pavilion which spans her talented and varied career but she also has a deep fondness for the Royal Hall.
Ernest and Barbara presented Music Hall in the Royal Hall for many years and appeared in and produced The Merry Widow with Brian Howard before taking that production to The Alhambra Theatre in Bradford.
Now in her 80th year, Barbara finds herself at the heart of Harrogate’s entertainment world once more.
“Throughout my career, the Royal Hall and Sun Pavilion have always been home to me,” she said.
“I would do anything to save the Royal Hall and as soon as I was asked to arrange shows and other entertainments I immediately said that I would be only too happy to help.
“Coming here brings it all back to me and I hope these dances will bring a spark back to the Sun Pavilion which is such a lovely setting.
Lilian Mina, chairman of the Royal Hall Restoration Trust, is full of praise for the top entertainer turned events manager.
“She’s an absolute star,” said Lilian, who is the champion of the campaign to save the Royal Hall.
“Barbara encapsulates everything that I hoped for when I started all this.
“What I always wanted was for the people of Harrogate and the district to do their own things for the Royal Hall and it is so rewarding to see that happen.
“Saving the Royal Hall is wonderful but it’s the human element – people coming forward and saying they want to help – that makes it all worthwhile.”
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