DAPHNE is a very determined woman. For years she’s been trying to get the column to the Richmond Methodist pantomime and clearly wasn’t going to take “Oh no he won’t” for an answer.

So, finally, I gave in. Snow White and the Magnificent Seven, last Friday, February 9, 7.30pm.

Then other February 9 invitations began to arrive. A sportsmen’s evening in Shildon, a film show in Hamsterley village hall – or the Hamsterley O2 Arena, as the organiser preferred to call it – a Beatles exhibition in Reno.

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Reno’s in Nevada, USA, known as The Biggest Little City in the World. “You and the missus still have time to make it,” emailed Ian Wright on January 29, and proferred pork pies by way of further inducement.

First come... and besides, the No 27 bus goes by Richmond, not Reno. There’s a story there, nonetheless.

Ian Wright, now a journalism professor at Reno University, was on February 9, 1963 a 17-year-old junior photographer on The Northern Echo, sent by editor Harold Evans to cover a Helen Shapiro concert at Sunderland Empire.

Shapiro was a year Ian’s junior, had already had two No 1 hits and was said to be earning ten times as much as Harold Macmillan, the prime minister.

Further, much further, down the bill were Kenny Lynch, Danny Williams, the Kestrels and a long haired, little known foursome from Liverpool. An Irish comedian called Dave Allen was MC.

Snow fell heavily. Ian, Darlington lad, went by bus – charged chiefly with getting material for the Echo’s new Teen Scene supplement.

“Harry Evans always encouraged us to photograph everyone,” he recalls. “He said that we never knew who’d be famous.”

On February 9, 1964, exactly a year later, 73 million people watched The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.

February 9 had been part of their first tour, after returning from Hamburg on New Year’s Day. Given unlimited access, Ian also covered the other three – and kept everything. “Wrighty brought us out of his darkroom and into the spotlight,” said John Lennon later.

Ian believes the Sunderland pictures to be the first taken of The Beatles on stage. “Pictures from this tour were very rare, but Ian was able to work both on stage and back stage,” wrote Beatles historian Martin Creasy.

The exhibition which opened last Friday at his ranch on Steamboat Parkway included unpublished photographs, glass negatives and darkroom equipment, tour posters and banners, sheet music and a Brian Epstein press pack including a preview Please Please Me LP cover.

Also on display was a letter which John Lennon wrote to the photographer the day before Lennon was murdered in 1980.

The opening, he reports, was a brilliant occasion; the column had already sent apologies for absence. You can’t please please people all the time.

FEBRUARY 9, 1963? The Northern Echo reported that dozens of girls had spent a snowy night camped outside the Globe in Stockton in order to get tickets for Cliff Richard and the Shadows. They weren’t even due until March 17. The Theatre Royal and the Empire in Newcastle were both hanging on to their pantomimes – Jimmy Logan in Goldilocks, perhaps not the title role, and Yana in Goody Two Shoes.

Beatles departed, Sunderland Empire turned to Hamlet – seats from half-a-crown to 7/6d – while at the Odeon cinema in Bishop Auckland, Sodom and Gomorrah was continuous from 1.10pm. “Adults only,” said the ad, but perhaps that went without saying.

IT’S to be a theatrical column. Unable to get into the Castle Players’ production of A Christmas Carol, we caught up with Oliver Twist at Cotherstone village hall, the last stop in a winter tour that had stretched from Crook to – crumbs – Gainford.

It was wonderfully well done, not always taken too seriously, Ian Kirkbride a compelling Fagin and Martin Foran a made-to-measure Bumble.

They’d even researched that, in 1881, the Teesdale Union Workhouse in Barnard Caste had 169 inmates and two resident staff.

We sat next to Neville Turner, retired Barney vet and now writer and raconteur who also lectures on cruise ships from Algeria to Zanzibar.

In 20 years, said Neville, he and his wife had been on about 40 cruises, required to give one 45-minute lecture a week. It sounded like pretty plain sailing.

PRE-SHOW, as they say, we’d enjoyed a very good Sunday lunch at the celebrated Rose and Crown in Romaldkirk. On the menu, only one dish had its provenance acknowledged.

It was Simpson’s roast beef, perhaps tempting long generations of English yeomen to suppose the supplier to be Simpson’s of the Strand. In Teesdale they know differently.

Up there they know that it’s from Joe Simpson in Cockfield and, perfectly in the pink, would vouch that it’s even better.

Canny pies, an’ all.

DIY entertainment, up to Wensleydale last wintry Tuesday to talk to Leyburn Probus Club, a jolly organisation for retired men – some old enough authentically to address the speaker as “youth.”

In the dales it rhymes with “mouth.”

Minutes of the previous meeting lamented the “sub-standard” turkey at the Christmas lunch – best not say where – a term thought by the secretary to be euphemistic. “Appalling,” he translated.

A debate ensued; not all agreed. This may be supposed picking over the bones.

On the wall, a large poster promoted a special showing – two houses – of the film Victoria and Abdul. The date? Friday, February 9.

THE previous evening, last Thursday, we’re at the Gala Theatre in Durham to see Fairport Convention – a folk/rock band on the road for 50 years and still able to fill the place.

“If we tour for another ten years we won’t need roadies, we’ll need travelling paramedics,” said Ric Sanders, the fiddle player.

Dave Pegg, the bass man, remained seated almost throughout. He needs a new hip, poor chap.

Musically masterful, most of their jokes– and much of the audience – may be as whiskery as they are. It was good, though, that they’d contemplated a bit of Handel.

Handel, said Ric, had merged with Hinge and Bracket. “They became The Doors.”

SO finally to the Wesley Pantomime Society, doubtless subject to what might be supposed a risqué assessment – though a show in which the leading man is Big Dick Pickett, played wonderfully by Jonny Staley, may never be supposed strait-laced.

Written and directed by Jenny Ash, who also found time to play Calamity Jane, it was set in Texas – chiefly the Dirty Dog saloon, run by Hank Sinatra. This being a Methodist saloon, the cow pokes drank sarsaparilla.

The church hall was rammed, the ice creams half the price of the Gala Theatre, the jokes – shall we say – traditional.

Why’s your horse called Treacle? Because it has golden stirrups.

How does the barber give the moon a haircut? Eclipse it.

The show was exhilarating, imaginative, brilliantly executed and supremely silly. Next year’s Richmond Methodist pantomime is on February 22-23 and we’re booked already. As they’d say in the Dirty Dog saloon, mighty fine.