THEY were once a byword in family entertainment - but somehow the town of Northallerton was always passed by.

But now, for the first time, the county town of North Yorkshire is about to stage its very first gang show.

Scouts and Guides and the younger Cubs and Brownies have been working for five months on their colourful extravaganza.

And they will hit the stage at the Hambleton Forum for four days of comedy and music next Tuesday.

Based on impresario Ralph Reader's original concept for gang shows, Northallerton's version will contain songs, dances, sketches and monologues.

And one of the backstage staff involved in the venture - Reg Mitchell - actually worked with Ralph Reader all those years ago.

After producing shows on Broadway, Mr Reader - a former Scout - staged his first gang show in 1932. They have been performed worldwide ever since, often becoming the highlight of an area's entertainment scene.

Major stars like Tony Hancock, Dick Emery, Roy Hudd and Peter Sellers took their first tentative showbiz steps in the revues.

Speaking of the Northallerton production, front-of-house manager Simon Hickling said: "It started as just an idea and it snowballed from there.

"There have been little events in local village halls before - but never anything on this scale.

"At a time when we hear so much about the negative element of today's young people, it's great to be involved with a fantastic bunch like this.

"They've all worked very hard over a number of months to produce a first class show which I'm sure will be enjoyed by everyone who sees it."

Although the show is being staged in Northallerton, there has been support for the venture from the wider community, with musical director support from one of the Army bands based at Catterick.

And the Young Offenders' Institute in Northallerton has also been involved, preparing scenery for the show in their workshops.

Tickets for the show are £6 for adults and £3 for the under-14s and the over-60s. Discounted party tickets are also available.

Contact the ticket manager on (01609) 761116 or Greensleeves Music on (01609) 780253.