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Anthony Riley

Sue Riley

 
Sue Riley
 

Anthony Riley's involvement in amateur theatre began at the age of just 7, when his parents became founder members of Alderley and Wilmslow Amateur Operatic Society. At the age of 10, he made his stage debut in A Christmas Carol- as Young Scrooge. A part his daughters believe he was born to play!
It wasn't long before he decided being in the limelight wasn't for him and he has spent the rest of his theatrical career behind the scenes. Within Alderley and Wilmslow, he was part of the props team with Ann and Tony Hallworth and Sue, who was later to become his wife. He has fond memories of making trick props for pantomimes, inventive use of trapdoors and transporting Cinderella's coach through Wilmslow in the dead of night. He was also part of the publicity team at the same time. In 1960 he met his future wife Sue, when she joined the society.
During this time Wilmslow has a professional theatre in the shape of the Rex.  Anthony was part of the stage crew at the theatre, later becoming the theatre's resident professional Stage Manager alongside his 'day job' at Ferranti's in Wythenshawe. The Stage Manager job bought him into contact with a number of stage stars as they passed through the town on tour, whether Barbara Windsor (and her very skimpy attire), Bernard Cribbins or Dame Anna Neagle -they all played Wilmslow in that period. On one occasion, the team, a number of whom are here today, memorably installed a full sized swimming pool, complete with water, for a play called 'Pyjama Tops'- where the cast wore considerably less than pyjama tops. On another he had to deal with cast members lighting fires in their dressing room to cook dinner, during the run of the African musical 'Ipi Tombi'. His role at the Rex meant that he also stage managed for both North Cheshire and East Cheshire Operatic.
He became Alderley and Wilmslow's Stage Manager in his twenties and held the post for over 30 years,  the most challenging time of all was dealing with the closure of the Rex and the relocation of Alderley and Wilmslow to Wilmslow Leisure Centre. The Society went from a theatre with a proscenium arch, orchestra pit, a fly tower and working dock to a building with none of those. It was hard for the whole team to adjust. It did though mean a few years where Anthony and a team comprising of Barry Peake, Harry Marsh, John Meadowcroft, Pete Nixon, Tony Hallworth (and many others) designed, built and painted sets for the new theatre- a number of them won awards and were bought by professional stage hire companies.
Becoming the Society's Secretary and retiring as Stage Manager happened at the same time. Ernest, his father had previously been Secretary so there was perhaps an air of inevitability about him moving into that role as he stepped out from back stage. He worked with Bob Chaloner as his Chairman and with Sue as his own Secretary!
By now enjoying his second career as a Christmas Tree Farmer, he retired as Secretary as the Christmas Tree business continued to expand.

He become Alderley and Wilmslow's President 10 years ago and is delighted to continue his involvement with the society has family have been so involved with

Sue Riley joined Alderley and Wilmslow at the age of 16 and unlike Tony has spent her entire career backstage. For a number of years she worked in and then ran the Props team. Animals often become the responsibility of the Props team and she has less than fond memories of trying to convince a donkey it wanted to go on stage for The Desert Song. How successful she was is lost in the midst of time, though she did receive a badly damaged thumb from the horse box that was the donkey's dressing room!

She later became the Ticket Secretary and moved front of house, where she has remained ever since. In 1993 she became the Chairman of the Society, a post she held for nine years. During her years as Chairman she had to negotiate with a belligerent band, who removed the piano hammers from the piano of a non-union pianist- on the opening night of a production. She pushed the company to perform one of the earliest amateur versions of Chicago in the North West- together with use of the f-word in the opening scene. Very racy for Wilmslow in the 90s!

One of her earliest jobs  as Chairman was dealing with the news that the Rex was to close and ensuring the company survived its move to a new home.
Alongside her role as Chairman, she has also been House Manager for the main productions. In  1992 she retired as Chairman. Although the plan had been to take it easy, Anthony had taken on the Secretary's role by then so Sue became his administrative assistant. A job involving much of the work but none of the kudos.

For the last few years, Sue has taken more of a backseat but continues to house manage for each November production.

Alderley and Wilmslow has been a major part of Anthony and Sue's life and conversely the Riley family have been a major part of the societies history.  They met at the society, have made a huge number of lifelong friends there and both Angela and Sarah have been involved for all of their lives. Anthony and Sue's oldest grandson, Cameron, is now the company Auditor.

As well as their continuing official roles, Sue and Anthony also provide storage facilities for all the costumes, clothes and props the company hold- and an endless source of advice and anecdotes!