John and Frankie Hutchings receive their lifetime achievment awardWhen in 1957, not long after their marriage, Anthony “Timber” Wood appealed to his friends, John and Frankie Hutchings, for help with the All Saints, Birchington, Guild of Players’ annual pantomime, they readily agreed. The producer of the pantomime had to withdraw that year and Timber had taken on the responsibility and Frankie stepped in as the back end of the cow and John helped with the construction of the set and back stage.

This began their long association with the Birchington Guild of Players (as it is now known).

Since then both, or at least one of them, has been associated with the annual pantomime (fifty four years). John being a skilled carpenter and joiner has been responsible for scenery and taken on the stage management for most of the pantomimes and Frankie has been in the chorus, played principal girl, helped with wardrobe, hair and makeup, refreshments and latterly been the prompt.

Apart from pantomimes there has been their association with the plays that the Guild put on over the year. Here again John has been responsible for scene building and stage management and Frankie has helped out back stage and as prompt. When the Guild has been fortunate enough to have won through to the Finals of the Kent Drama Association Play Festivals, it was down to John to organise getting the sets to either the Gulbenkian or the Hazlitt Theatres.

John was quickly elected to be a member of the Committee and for many years held the post of Vice Chairman. He was also one of the Guild’s representatives on the Thanet Arts Council and as such helped with the organisation and running of several Thanet Arts Festivals held at the Winter Gardens, Margate.

During the time they have been members the Guild has had to move its scenery store five times and John has been responsible on many occasions for these moves and the building and renovation of the same.

Back in the 1960/1970’s the Birchington Guild of Players worked with the Hotel Association in Cliftonville and Margate organising and putting on a show “Holiday Capers” for the elderly people who came to Margate in May and September on holiday. This entailed performing at various different halls in the area and here again John was instrumental in organising the scenery etc. Frankie took part in many of these shows as well.

Fund raising for the Guild has also been one of their main activities and along with other members they raised funds to help build the Village Centre in Birchington in order that the Guild could have a permanent home in which to perform. Lately they have been fund raising by organising members to help out at steam rallies etc. In the past they have also been responsible for helping out building carnival floats to advertise Guild activities.

When their children came along it did not stop their participation with the Guild and the children joined in. Peter helped out back stage and eventually went on to co-produce pantomimes and Lesley was in junior shows, pantomimes and plays.

Even now at the ages of nearly 81 and 76, Frankie and John are involved with this year’s annual pantomime.