By Graham Whalan
After years of devoted service to community arts Ken Hindle was recently honoured by his induction into the Association of Community Theatre’s Hall of Fame. Along with his wife Brenda, herself a previous inductee, the honour is in recognition of their tireless commitment to both the continuation and development of the local arts scene in Ulverston, Cumbria, and the surrounding area.
Ken’s theatrical career stretches back more than forty years when he was drafted in to support a pantomime project at a local school. Immediately bitten by the theatrical bug, he then joined Barrow-in-Furness amateurs for a brief spell before becoming a regular presence in the annual productions of Ulverston’s Amateur Operatic Society. Over the years he has also appeared in a number of local short drama productions and, for well over twenty years, took on the role of Dame for Ulverston Pantomime Society’s annual show.
But his contribution was never limited to his antics on stage. As a professional joiner (and later as Principal Building Control Surveyor for the local District Council) he was keen to apply his expertise in set design and construction. So whether a production required a spiral or a sweeping, elaborate staircase, split-level staging or specially created items such as a helter-skelter (for Carousel), or even a full-scale Noah’s Ark (as in Children of Eden) Ken was an hand to create something special. Additionally, since hired sets are rarely a one-size-fits-all arrangement, Ken’s creative modifications always made sure that they suited the limits of the available staging area. Working closely with Brenda and members of the society’s committee, Ken has also brought several innovations to the staging, such as filmed inserts (first used in the society’s production of Singin’ in the Rain in 1996), and recently the application of a high definition LED video wall, to create seamless changes of scenery for the 2019 production of A Tale of Two Cities.
In fact it is difficult to think of an area of production in which Ken and Brenda have not been involved whether it’s fundraising, publicity management, programme design, and even the securing of props. I’m told that, when on holiday abroad, the couple always keep an eye out for unusual items that might be used in future productions and that, on occasion, decisions to buy items for their own home have even been guided by the item’s potential for use in a production. In 2000 Ken was invited to become Chair of the Ulverston Society, a role he continues to fulfil today as he negotiates the challenges of 21st Century amateur theatre.
One challenge the Hindles particularly enjoy is the work they do with the younger members of the society and, given the distractions of the modern-age, the opportunity to inspire in them an interest in live theatre. They told me that it is a special satisfaction to see the youngsters grow in confidence and skill, and that it is then a source of both sadness (for the society) but equal delight when some progress to seek their own careers in the performing arts.
As central figures in Ulverston’s productions, one wonders in fact how UAOS would manage without Ken and Brenda Hindle’s energy and commitment. Indeed this is one of their personal concerns since, as every amateur society will know, succession planning is always a major challenge. But if the future of amateur theatre is ultimately dependent on the amount of public support it is able to generate within the communities they serve, there is little doubt that Ken and Brenda have played a significant part in this task.
Through their constant promotion of the performing arts, their work in engaging and inspiring young people, and, perhaps most importantly, in setting a fine example for others to follow, their place in ACT’s Hall of Fame is clearly very well deserved.