Sandy Coronation Pageant
Place: Sandy Cinema (Sandy) (Sandy, Bedfordshire, England)
Number of performances: 2
2 June 1953
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Writer and Pageant Master: Bonacker,
- Musical Director: Peter Kneale
- Costumes: Mrs R. Small and Mrs R.W.
- Properties: Mrs R. Pentelow and Miss K.
Names of executive committee or equivalent
Coronation Festival Committee
- Chairman: H. Benyon
- President: Alderman W.G. Braybrooks
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Bonacker, Rolph
Names of composers
- Kneale, Peter
Numbers of performers70
A £20 grant was given for organising the pageant
Object of any funds raised
Coronation of Elizabeth II
- Grandstand: No
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: n/a
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
- Sports Day
- Fancy Dress Costume competition
- Church service
Sandy Coronation Pageant
The Pageant depicted scenes from the Danish Invasion to the time of Queen Victoria
Key historical figures mentioned
Choir taken from Children of the County Primary School
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Book of words
Other primary published materials
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
Sources used in preparation of pageant
In January 1953, the local newspaper columnist
‘Democrat’ had lamented the state of local drama, asking: ‘Is there no local
talent in Sandy?’, and complaining that ‘so many other villages and towns’,
such as nearby Biggleswade and Blunham, ‘annually provide an entertainment’. ‘Surely’,
he felt, ‘there must be a few people in Sandy who are keen on amateur dramatics
or light entertainment?’ Democrat concluded by exhorting the town to produce
some dramatic production to celebrate the forthcoming Coronation week in June,
declaring that ‘Although Sandy people are apathetic in some respects, I am sure
they would respond.’1
One Rolph Bonacker responded to this call with gusto. Bonacker was a largely self-taught twenty-three year old land worker, who had acted in a number of dramatic societies in Nottingham, where he had previously written plays, as well as taking part in Eisteddfods, and the Sandy Coronation Pageant was almost entirely due to his efforts.2 It was one of hundreds written to celebrate the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953 (see entries for Benfleet, Newick, and Warwickshire Coronation Pageants).
The Pageant faced several obstacles, the greatest of which was the lack of finances. Bonacker had been granted £20 in total, which fell far short of his ambitious plans, telling the Biggleswade Chronicle that ‘the costume of Elizabeth I, if hired, would cost about £10’ alone.3 Consequently, the organisers requested that the public donate materials for costumes, which seem to have been forthcoming. In May Peter Kneale, the Musical Director, reported that ‘after a slow start the pageant had made steady progress’, appealing for further help with making the costumes.4
Fortuitously enough, the Pageant was held in the local cinema, since heavy rain on the day prevented several associated events—such as a sports day—from taking place. The Biggleswade Chronicle was full of praise for the performance, declaring that ‘The pageant was ideally conceived and well performed and demonstrated without a shadow of a doubt that there is in Sandy (as there must be in other small communities) much latent talent.’5
Bonacker’s stated desire to keep dramatic production alive in the town was greatly helped by the Pageant’s success. The Sandy Dramatic League, affiliated to the British Drama Club, was founded at a meeting in July, its establishment being loudly applauded by ‘Democrat’ whose letter to the Biggleswade Chronicle had, after all, sparked the pageant in the first place.6 Indeed, as this example illustrates, despite the general decline in post-war pageantry, those which were successful often spawned a continuing local interest in amateur dramatics.
FootnotesBiggleswade Chronicle, 30 January 1953, 6.
Biggleswade Chronicle, 3 April 1953, 6.
Biggleswade Chronicle, 17 April 1953, 6.
Biggleswade Chronicle, 15 May 1953, 11.
Biggleswade Chronicle, 12 June 1953, 8.
Biggleswade Chronicle, 3 July 1953, 16 and 10 July 1953, 8.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Sandy Coronation Pageant’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1421/