Established in the late 80’s and started by Karen Garrattley, The Music Group has been the resident entertainment hub of the church. The amateur dramatic group started by performing concerts showcasing local talent with everything from singing to comedy sketches.

In the mid 90’s a new idea emerged. Karen’s husband Chris suggested that they should go bigger and have a crack at a production. With very little budget to pay royalties for pre-written shows, Karen didn’t think it would be possible.  Chris then proposed we write our very own and the Music Group pantomime was born! With the help of a few others Chris created an original script. He wasn’t interested in “treading the boards” but he quite happily managed the technical aspects as Backstage Manager.

The first pantomime was “The Wizard that was” about a fairy-tale land that was due to be dug up to make space for an airport. The characters sought the help of a retired wizard to save them. People from the church and surrounding community enjoyed taking part, helping backstage and watching the show. That was it, The Music Group was hooked on pantomime!

After that Chris continued to write pantomimes, with various friends and family and was even convinced to take part. He hasn’t looked back and the audiences love his banter.

To date The Music Group has produced 12 pantomimes:

  • The Wizard that Was (1999)
  • Hotel Llamados
  • Ma Kipling’s Coffee Shop
  • Rip ‘em off Health Farm (2001)
  • Starship Humbug (2003)
  • The Pop Belly Bess
  • Heard it on the Grapevine (2008)
  • Knights, Tights and Jewelley Fights (2011)
  • Spies, Lies and Evil Guys (2013)
  • The Gold of Gopher Gulch (2015)
  • Starship Humbug: The Next Generation (2017)
  • The Tablet of Time (2020)

The last 6 pantomimes have been written by Chris and his daughter Becky. The next pantomime will see Chris’s son Luke join the writing team.

The Music Group still continue to produce concerts, usually in the Summer time alongside a BBQ. The pantomimes are performed every 2 years and the group are often asked why they aren’t performed every year. Their short answer: “It’s a lot of work!”. The scripts are written bespoke for those who want to take part in the show. A basic story idea is created and then parts are written for each person. This means no auditions and a chance for everyone to have their moment.

The Pantomime Creation Timeline

January: Basic story is announced at a meet up to find out who wants to take part.

January – June: Script is written and each character carefully considered.

July/August: Cast told who’s the goody, who’s the baddie and who’s wearing the dress! Script read through with the cast and crew.

September: Rehearsals begin which means the lines get even funnier as ad-libbing begins.

February: Show performed consisting of the usual backstage nerves, fun, and laughter both onstage and backstage. We’re lucky to have a great backstage and front of house team who take on the job knowing full well that at some point they will be the subject of a joke or two. It’s part of the job description!

The Music Group has become a real family with some inspirational comments from the cast and crew:

“Seriously, what a Church, what an amazing bunch of people. Going to miss you guys so much”

Asu Latham

“We love you Ashton-on-Mersey URC Pantomime Family. Thank you for unforgettable memories”

Jillian Morgan

“I can‘t express the happiness, joy and amazing memories Jess and I have from the last 6 months. You are truly all so very special to us now and will always be a special part of our lives”

Jess and Vicky Gresty