Sandy Coronation Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Sandy Cinema (Sandy) (Sandy, Bedfordshire, England)

Year: 1953

Indoors/outdoors: Indoors

Number of performances: 2


2 June 1953

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Writer and Pageant Master: Bonacker, Rolph
  • Musical Director: Peter Kneale
  • Costumes: Mrs R. Small and Mrs R.W. Rogers
  • Properties: Mrs R. Pentelow and Miss K. Markham

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 performers


Financial information

A £20 grant was given for organising the pageant

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

Coronation of Elizabeth II

Audience information

  • Grandstand: No
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: n/a

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events

  • Sports Day
  • Fancy Dress Costume competition
  • Church service
  • Bonfire

Pageant outline

Sandy Coronation Pageant

The Pageant depicted scenes from the Danish Invasion to the time of Queen Victoria

Key historical figures mentioned


Musical production

Choir taken from Children of the County Primary School

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Biggleswade Chronicle

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.


1. ^ Biggleswade Chronicle, 30 January 1953, 6.
2. ^ Biggleswade Chronicle, 3 April 1953, 6.
3. ^ Biggleswade Chronicle, 17 April 1953, 6.
4. ^ Biggleswade Chronicle, 15 May 1953, 11.
5. ^ Biggleswade Chronicle, 12 June 1953, 8.
6. ^ 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,