In December 1995, Sally Allsopp and Andy Collier met to discuss the idea of her taking over the Leighton Buzzard Children's Theatre. Andy had moved to Northamptonshire and was finding travel a problem. Sally had recently produced a small charity show in aid of Imperial Cancer Research Fund with children from the village of Heath & Reach. These children had also been asked to perform for the senior citizens of Heath & Reach at their Christmas party. Sally and Andy thought it was a good idea to try. An agreement was set up with profits going to Imperial Cancer Research Fund.
In January 1996, the new LBCT had its first rehearsal for The Pirates of Penzance. We recruited hard for this production, even offering king-sized Mars Bars as an incentive to join and to recruit! It soon became obvious that the Mars Bars were not necessary as the group rehearsed weekly with over 40 members. In July 1996, The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan (adapted by Sally Allsopp for the children) was performed to sell out audiences at the Leighton Buzzard Theatre. It had worked! Many new children had been introduced to musical theatre.
The group soon began to grow and a Mini Section for 5 - 8 year olds was started in September 1996. The group now boasts five sections, and has a waiting list for all sections still. Young people aged between 4 - 18 are members of Leighton Buzzard Children's Theatre. The group has produced hundreds of performances ranging from Animal Antics at the Bossard Hall to Les Miserables (School's Edition) and The Sound of Music at the Leighton Buzzard Theatre.
A former student, Ryan, says:
"Thanks for all of the opportunities you have given me over the last few years, it really has helped me to build on my confidence, and I now have no problems with performing or with public speaking, and that has a lot to do with LBCT."
Gordon Pernham, Leighton Buzzard Town Mayor said (after children performed at the 2011 Mayors Christmas concert):
"Sally - Thank you very much for coming it was a great evening I did speak to some of your wonderful young people but as always with so many people to get get to it was hard for me to have much time with you. Thank you again for your support and give my best wishes to all your children. It is so important that groups like yours continue to thrive and give children that extra special additional support . Thanks Again you must be very proud"
A parent of Mini Theatre children says:
"Hi Sally, I have wanted to write since Saturday evening and have only just got the time. I just wanted to say how grateful we are to you for giving the kids the opportunity to get on stage and have such a wonderful time. Both girls really really had the best time of their lives and all of us will treasure the memories we made over last weekend. Without your unending support and tireless work with the kids we wouldn't have those memories.
"Ella has been suffering post show come down and we have been trying to keep her occupied with fun things to take her mind off it. She was crying on Sunday because she said she wanted to go back out on the stage. Lucy absolutely loved her part in things and had the best time ever. They both love coming to drama and I am absolutely sure that in large part that is due to your positivity – thank you!
"Please pass on our gratitude too to the large team of supporters in the background.
"Thanks Sally and we will see you after half term."