Committee - North West
Andy McNicholasRegional Councillor / Regional Secretary / Membership Secretary / Awards Secretary / Councillor / Volunteer
I was honoured to have been elected NODA NW Regional Councillor in September 2019 and I look forward to meeting as many members as possible at shows, District Awards Dinners and at the annual NODA NW Conference held each year in May.
Along with the Regional Reps and Head Office staff, I'm more than happy to help out and support our members in whatever way I can.
I've always had an interest and love of theatre but didn't discover the exciting world of amateur theatre until fairly recently. I've been a member of amateur societies for 15 years and for the past 11 of those I've been treasurer for my home society. Talking them through the charity registration and Gift Aid processes and regularly applying for, and obtain grant funding to help with our everyday needs.
Although you won't find me on stage (only ever stepping on stage once during a performance), you will find me working front of house, helping with props, production managing, looking after costumes and generally doing anything I can that doesn't involve actually going on stage!
I see my role of Regional Councillor as one of supporting the NW Reps meet the needs of our members.
Trevor MillsRegional Treasurer / Volunteer
Kevin ProctorRegional Representative / Volunteer (District NW01)
I have trained in the theatre disciplines since a young age, starting at the Kirkham Henry School of Performing Arts (KHSPA) where my passion for dance, singing and acting was exercised through masterclasses and technique training with regular performances in Musicals, Showcases, Dramas and Pantomimes.
During my youth I was always involved in anything theatrical that I could find, wherever an opportunity presented itself, be it taking part in school productions or gathering my mates together to perform the nativity at the local church (whether they wanted to or not). Through my school years I was a member of Malton & Norton AOS and Norton & Malton Amateur Dramatics Society – both NODA affiliated groups. There has never been a time when I haven’t been in rehearsals for something.
I chose to study Performing Arts at college level which is where I discovered an appetite for directing and choreography as well as developing in performance techniques.
After college I went on to work professionally as lead male vocalist for Britannia Hotels and also performed in summer season revues and pantomimes throughout the North East. Wanting to further in higher education I went on to study the arts at Newcastle College where my craft in performance and my creative eye was developed further. Whilst in the North East I was a member of North Ormsby Minstrels – also NODA affiliated. During my time in Newcastle I founded MTS, a student fringe theatre company, directing and choreographing several productions and also attained the knack for creative writing too. This post led to work directing ‘Beautiful Thing’ (drama) and directing/choreographing ‘Little Shop Of Horrors’ (musical) for Northumbria University.
Professional theatre credits - UK touring productions of ‘Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’ (Bill Kenwright & Really Useful Group), ‘The Wizard Of Oz’ (RSC) and 'The Sound Of Music' (Really Useful Group). In 2008 I made the move to Manchester. Whilst dipping in and out of professional and fringe engagements - as a performer and on production teams - my passion and heart has remained firm with the exciting and innovative societies that Manchester has to offer. I am regularly in rehearsals for something either as a performer, director and/or choreographer which, over the years has seen recognition by NODA, The Manchester Musical Awards and ACT respectively from my time as a member of Hyde Musical Society, Salford Musical Theatre, Horwich AODS, The Altrincham Garrick, Warrington Light Opera and South Manchester AOS (all NODA affiliated) and finally Northenden Players. I am also an active committee member and trustee for South Manchester AOS and continue to be creatively involved with 'Showcase' which is an annual event bringing together local societies to perform at the Salford Lowry to fund raise for a different charity each year.
I was appointed as the NODA North West District 1 representative in 2012 and have introduced / welcomed new societies to NODA, my highlight to the role has come from establishing the annual district 1 awards gala which sole purpose is to recognise and celebrate the talent in this influential and remarkably thriving area.
Chris HigginsRegional Representative / Volunteer (District NW02)
Chris has trained in Music and Performing Arts since school, following up his studies at college with A-Levels in the arts and progressed to gain a place at Mountview Theatre School to study Musical Theatre.
Following his degree studies for a BA in Musical Theatre, Chris joined various shows including Annie (Warbucks), Grease (Sonny), Jesus Chris Superstar (Judas) and a National Tour of The Wizard of Oz (Ensemble and Tin Man Understudy). Chris was also lucky enough to originate the role of Pheobus in the UK version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame as well as work abroad as a vocalist for production companies. During his time in Cyprus Chris set up the Paphos Zingers, a charity show choir which is still to this day raising money for local charities on the island and he’s very proud to have started such a fantastic group which he is now a patron of and visits as regularly as possible.
Following an illness which stopped Chris performing for a long while, Chris moved his performing into the pit as a musical director for shows such as The Pilgrimage, Annie, The Sound of Music, Grease, RENT, Cats, Rock of Ages and Oliver! to name a few.
Chris has worked as a recording artist with labels such as Origin Records and ELC Records as well as working as a singer/songwriter for personal projects, gaining BBC radio play.
Chris has been teaching Music, Acting and Technical Theatre throughout his career in schools and colleges around Lancashire as well as privately and currently owns his own Music School and Recording Studio aptly named Chris Higgins Music, in Poulton-le-Fylde.
Still a professional musician, performing for functions and events as a piano/vocalist or leading a band Chris actually has no ties to any amateur theatre group in the area but loves his role with NODA and enjoys seeing the “Real Talent” we have in the UK in amateur theatre believing that the only difference between amateur and professional theatre is, and should be a pay cheque! Chris expects high levels of professionalism in all the shows he sees in District 2 and wants to help to try and encourage and further the performances that he sees with his show reports.
Paul MasonRegional Representative / Volunteer (District NW03)
I am delighted to be the NODA representative for District 3. I have been acting (up) ever since I can remember. My parents were instrumental in converting a disused a small air force base that had become redundant in 1945 into a wonderful amateur theatre, The Grange Playhouse in Walsall ( Google it. ) It is still a successful theatre and The Grange Players are NODA members. So much of my early years were spent running up and down the theatre aisle while dad painted the set and all the other things one does to stage a show. and mom rehearsed her lines in the dressing room. I began acting at school, like we all do, playing in Macbeth and other classics. I had got the bug and went up to the University of Birmingham in 1972 when there were only 72 single honours places in drama and theatre arts in the country. I worked with David Edgar and Victori Wood w(ith whom I was once a duo incidentally) and then went into managing night clubs throughout England for EMI. I have been a drama adviser the West Midlands Arts Association and the Arts Council Of Wales while I lived briefly in Swansea in the early 1990s. I ended as an assistant director in local government running theatres, museums and concert halls. My heroes are Sondheim. who got me my place at uni (I'll tell you how if you ask), Shakespeare and the once much-despised but now re-discovered genius, Terence Rattigan
I have acted and directed for many societies wherever I have lived. These days I find it difficult to remember lines so I stick to directing.
I set up a community theatre group at Blackburn Cathedral last year where I am also a member of the Chapter.
Please contact me if I can be of any help to you on NODA matters or how to play a decent paradiddle.
Jo RymerRegional Representative / Volunteer (District NW04)
My involvement in amateur theatre began over fifteen yearsago, initiated by eavesdropping on a conversation at our local pub. The subsequent conversation resulted in what was to become my insane incredible hobby. As a member of Neston Players which is based in Cheshire, my first steps treading the boards was in the Leverhulme Drama Festival, specifically representing one act plays. My roles included a lady at a bus stop to a gun toting femme fatale, quite a spread. Bigger roles were to come, Viv in Memory of Water, Maureen in Comfort & Joy.
Realising I was not a Dame Judy Dench being asked to co-direct Once a Catholic for Neston Players was a revelation I loved it, and turned my energies to direction. My directorial debut was in 2009, the play Whose Life is it Anyway, for which I received a Best Director NODA nomination. I was thrilled. Cheshire Cats written by local playwright Gail Young was to follow, then Dinner, Bette & Joan and Delval Divas, which was the first production of this American play in the UK.
I have been fortunate to receive 3 NODA nominations for Best Director and 2 for Best Play with Neston Players which is due to the talent both on and backstage that make up any amateur society.
My background is In drama, do not fear musical societies, in 2008 I worked with the Culture Company in their delivery of the European Capital of Culture, with partners Empire Theatre, Royal Court, Philharmonic, Liverpool Everyman, Unity Theatre and of course Liverpool Institute of Performing Art (LIPA)
Last but by no means least, Neston Players production of the critically acclaimed offbeat musical extravaganza Eurobeat (almost Eurovision) was a tremendous experience never to be repeated.
I am delighted to be the NODA representative for District NW4
Liz Hume-DawsonRegional Representative / Volunteer (District NW05)
I have been involved with dancing and acting most of my life, starting off in Huddersfield doing the circuit of Amateur Dramatic Societies. I went on a NODA course in Bristol doing acting and directing courses, where I was encouraged to go to drama school. As a mature student I went on to do B-Tec in drama and A level Theatre studies and Design and Contemporary Dance, gaining a place at drama school for 3 years. Since graduating in 1997 I have worked in Television and Theatre.
This compliments my work in schools working with GCSE and A- level students and directing locally with adult and youth groups, inc. Farnworth Little Theatre, Summerseat Players and currently, BCMCS. Here, having previously directed for the Youth Group ‘Joseph’ and ‘Honk’, Adult section ‘Godspell’ & The Dream I am currently working on a new piece ‘The Dream’ a musical.
I am very passionate about drama and by being a NODA rep I hope to enthuse and help local drama.
Jim BriscoeRegional Representative / Volunteer (District NW06)
I became a member of Ormskirk Pleasure Folk AMS in 1988, when my daughters were asked to be Junior Dancers in the society’s pantomime Robinson Cruse (I ended up ‘pushing and pulling’ scenery - backstage crew). Within twelve months I’d ‘crewed’ my first musical and been ‘conned’ into treading the boards for the first time as a ‘non speaking guard’ in ‘Aladdin’. My first ‘big role’ came in 1990 - I played ‘Harry the Horse’ in Guys and Dolls - that was me hooked! My claim to ‘fame’, if you can call it that, lies in pantomime, where for the past twenty or so years I’ve been Pleasure Folks Resident Dame. Every year I wonder will this be my last, but cometh the hour, the wigs, the boobs, the dresses, the make-up comes out and off we go again!
There was little or no opportunity to study theatre or drama when I was at school, so with no formal training, bar the odd singing lesson, I’ve had to ‘pick up and learn’ about amateur theatre on the ‘hoof’. Fortunately, I’ve had the privilege and pleasure to work with and alongside some incredibly talented ‘theatre folk’ all of whom have been only too willing to share their experiences and pass on invaluable advice. In 2018, I was given the opportunity to become Assistant to the then District 6 Rep Pat Connor. When asked, I was only too willing to help, little knowing that within 12 months, Pat and I would swap roles and the rest is history! I am passionate about anything and everything to do with Amateur Theatre especially anything Youth related. It is such a privilege and an honour to be NODA NW District 6 Rep.
Claire AshworthRegional Representative / Volunteer (District NW07)
I have been involved with amateur dramatics since 1989, I started in chorus and moved fairly quickly to Principal roles, I have qualifications in Dance and am vocally trained. I fully enjoyed Drama at school and have been lucky enough to have worked with a leading London Dance Company in the past.
I am an active member in my local society both on stage and behind the scenes. I am interested in all aspects of theatre and I fully understand the hurdles faced when we have to get a show from the page to the stage.
I am passionate about keeping live theatre going and am thrilled to be your Noda Rep for District 7.
Joe ClarkeRegional Representative / Volunteer (District NW08)
Originally from Belfast, Joe has lived in England since training at Guildford School of Acting in 1998, graduating in 2001 with a BA (Hons) Degree in Musical Theatre. Joe has appeared in West End productions of ‘Taboo’ (original cast) at the Leicester Square Theatre, ‘ 125th Street’, Shaftsbury Theatre and ‘Footloose’, European Tour. Joe has appeared in a number of television shows such as Coronation Street, Hollyoaks, Shameless and most recently in the ITV Film Torvill & Dean. Joe is a single dad of two beautiful boys Charlie & Billy, who have inherited the acting bug from both parents! Joe has been involved in acting since the age of 5 when he appeared on stage with the BBC Concert Orchestra and Rusty Lee at the Ulster Hall, Belfast. He has a vast knowledge of Musical Theatre and has worked in both theatre and television as a director, performer and choreographer. Joe has very high standards of what amateur theatre should look like and will continue to try and inspire amateur theatre through detailed reviews that emphasise areas for development as well as offering praise for effort and pushing the boundaries of theatre.
Ed McGeeRegional Representative / Volunteer (District NW10)
I joined Workington AOS for their Diamond Jubilee production of ‘Patience’ My brother persuaded me to ‘have a go’, as there was a shortage of men, and I became immediately hooked. I was a chorus member for a couple of years, and played my first leading role in ‘Showboat’ in 1969. I was a founder member of Whitehaven Theatre Group in 1970, and was instrumental in them becoming members of NODA. I played leading roles in Whitehaven as well as still being a member of Workington, my most challenging role being Nikki in ‘Kings Rhapsody’ I became a member of the Workington management team, and continued to take active roles on stage and with the society’s administration.I became society Artistic Director in 1997, and directed ‘Singing in the Rain’, and I have since done nineteen consecutive shows for the company, and also directed shows for other societies in West Cumbria. I became a NODA Rep in 2006 on the death of the incumbent Rep Peter Hendren, and have enjoyed every minute of the role. My specific highlight being winning best show for WAOS for their production of CHESS in 2007. I received my NODA gold bar in 2015, and continue to enjoy this wonderful hobby of ours.
Martin CraigRegional Representative / Volunteer (District NW11)
Martin has been involved with local theatre for over forty years. During that time he has been involved in around 150 productions across South Cumbria and North Lancashire, with around 100 “treading the boards”. Martin began his theatrical career at age 8, playing Tiny Tim in a school production of A Christmas Carol. Since then he’s played everything from “second chorus member at the back” to Judas (Jesus Christ Superstar), Bill Snibson (Me and My Girl), Lumiere and The Beast (Beauty and the Beast), Harold Hill (Music Man) and Che (Evita). Though he prefers musical theatre, Martin is a regular in panto and has been known to appear in plays, concerts and Gilbert and Sullivan productions. His home society is Barrow Operatic and Dramatic Society, which he has been an active member of from 1978 to the present day. During this time he has served as a committee member for around sixteen years and chaired the society. Martin was awarded Life Membership of “BODS” in 2011 for his commitment to the society. When off the stage Martin is an experienced Stage Manager, Set Designer, Set Construction Manager, Producer and Director. More recently he directed WJAOS’s Me and My Girl, Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables — between them earning 20 NODA NW nominations. Martin is passionate about amateur theatre in all its forms and is delighted to represent District 11.
Steph NilandAssistant Regional Rep / Volunteer (District NW01)
Growing up I was surrounded with music and creativity, so it was no surprise when I embarked on such an enduring hobby, Amateur Dramatics, at the age of 10. This hobby has seen me treading the boards in many guises from principal boy to Mary Queen of Scots, from German spy to Mama Morton. Favourite roles include Amneris in Aida, Angela in Abigail's Party and Marta in Company.
Alongside the on stage work in amateur theatre, I have directed, designed and stage managed an assortment of plays, musicals and pantomimes.
My love for the performing and creative arts lead me to pursue it educationally, studying Theatre Studies and Design Tech (set design specialism) at A Level, gaining a couple Btec National Diploma in Art and Design and Performing Arts and then I went on to obtain a First Class Honours Degree in Performing Arts.I dipped my toe into the professional world of acting a few times, and loved every moment! Since school and university days, I have been in retail management, portrait photography, primary teaching and senior management and am currently a Drama and Music practitioner working in many different educational and non educational establishments; teaching (curriculum and non curriculum drama and music), directing and helping students through LAMDA examinations. Throughout all of these activities Amateur Theatre remains a mainstay.
In the meantime, on a personal note, I managed a Vegas wedding and a couple of beautiful and wonderful productions...2 sons.
I am delighted to hold this position with Noda this year and can't wait to see what District 1 dramas are in store!
Patricia ConnorAssistant Regional Rep / Volunteer (District NW06)
I have been on the stage since before I was born, as my mother, who was a professional actress and singer before she was married, played Lady Babby in “Gypsy Love” when she was eight months pregnant with me. Since then I have been involved with the theatre from a very early age along with my mother and father, who was also a singer and director of plays. Over the years I have been involved both on and off stage playing many roles in Plays, Musical Theatre and Opera as well as concert work. My work off stage has been as backstage crew, props and wardrobe as well as directing.
Rob GemmellMagazine Editor / Volunteer
Originally from the South East of England I took my first steps on stage with Stock Drama Group in November 2001 performing in “One O’clock from the House”. Many performances followed that over the next 3 years including “Pardon Me, Prime Minister”, “Beyond a Joke” and “Deathtrap”. In 2004 I moved from the South East to the North West of England and with the move came the continued desire to perform. I joined Lytham Anonymous Players where I performed over the next six years in various plays “The Ghost Train”, “Habeas Corpus”, “Brassed Off” and “Murder Mistaken” to name but a few. In 2011 I welcomed my first child into the world and my commitments soon changed. I was still determined to continue to support the arts however and in 2013 I began writing reviews and features for local theatre groups to feature on Lancashire Life’s website. I have been blessed to see many great plays and wonderful performances from both amateur and professional theatre all across the North West and have had the pleasure to interview some of the most well-known playwrights, producers, actors and directors in the region. I wanted to continue to promote amateur theatre, not just in the North West, but all over the country and that was when my association with Noda began and I envisage a beautiful journey ahead for the arts.
Neil HastingsWebsite Editor / Volunteer
I became the NODA North West website editor in 2021, and am very pleased to do what I can to support societies in the North West on our NODA website. I'm a member of Barrow Operatic and Dramatic Society but also a "sometimes member" of a number of other groups, notably Walney Musical Theatre Company, Broughton Panto Group, Ulverston Outsiders, Stavely G&S and Kendal G&S. I'm a huge fan of all things "performing", but especially enjoy musicals and Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. I've been performing for a little over a decade, but feel relatively new to performing. There's always lots to learn!
If you should wish to contact me about your society's NODA listing, please do so at firstname.lastname@example.org and I shall do what I can to help.
Kit PhillipsYouth Coordinator / Volunteer
I became the NW's Youth Coordinator in 2021, and am extremely proud to be working with all the fantastic societies in the region to promote youth theatre and our amazing young performers.
I am a qualified teacher, work in educational publishing, and run a theatre school of my own, so educating and providing opportunities for young people is a real passion. From 2017, I've been producing and directing youth productions of published works, such as "Our Day Out", "Animal Farm", "Lord Of The Flies", "Goodnight, Mr Tom", "Spring Awakening" and "DNA", as well as original, student devised productions like "Frankenstein's Creature", "Keep Me In Mind" and "Korczak's Children".
With all the talent of the NW's youth sector, it's really exciting to start collaborating, and building connections amongst our societies, to create the best opportunities for the young people of the North West
David SlaterRegional Committee Member / Volunteer
Having joined Burnley Light Opera's youth society in 1986, my involvement with amateur theatre in one way or another has been as rewarding as it has long-standing. That first appearance on stage in 'The Boy Friend' as a gendarme (with a broken arm in plaster during show week) obviously whetted an appetite for amateur dramatics which is still as sharp today. I have appeared in and directed many amateur productions all around the North West during that time and - like the rest of us - find that there's always something to learn, fresh experiences to be gained and new friendships made from each new theatrical challenge. Over the years, I have turned from being the kind of fool who loathes G&S with a passion, to being something of a proselytiser for the Savoy Operas and the glories of Gilbert and Sullivan: I'm not sure how it happened but I shall be eternally grateful that it did!
Having been the NODA representative for District Three for the past few years, it was with some reluctance that I relinquished the role to move to a new challenge as the NODA Festivals adjudicator: nevertheless, the amount of talent on display whenever I'm invited to attend amateur productions continues to impress. Both my partner Stuart and I send our kind regards and best wishes for continued future success to everyone in District 3 - and to the wider NODA family in general of course.