YOUNGSTERS from a Cullingworth stage school are taking to the stage with star actors for the Bradford Alhambra panto.

The Sara Packham Theatre School is again providing children for the Alhambra’s junior dance troupe the Sunbeams.

The Sara Packham Theatre School has provided Sunbeams for the Alhambra pantomimes for 14 years (not consecutively), starting with Aladdin starring Cannon & Ball in 2000.

There are two teams of Sunbeams, each with eight children, who will take it in turns to appear in performances during the six-week run of Cinderella.

The youngsters will appear alongside Bradford panto king Billy Pearce, singer and Loose Women panellist Coleen Nolan and stage star Shane Nolan. The young dancers are continuing a tradition started 100 years ago when the Sunbeams first twirled across the boards of in the city.

The troupe – then all girls – was introduced by Francis Laidler, who had built the Alhambra just a few years before and was known as the King of Panto for the shows he presented in Bradford, Leeds, Keighley, Manchester, Bristol and London.

He started the tradition of using Sunbeams in his pantomimes in 1917 at the Prince’s Theatre in Bradford, and the children appeared in Robin Hood alongside Lily Vine, Winnie Goodwin and Fred Walmsley. During the 1930/31 panto season the Sunbeams officially began their residency at the Alhambra Theatre, when Laidler switched his panto used to the venue. Mother Goose, starred Norah Blaney and George Lacy.

The Sunbeams were Francis Laidler’s “ray of sunshine in the darkness of the war years”, and with their matching bobbed haircuts were an instant hit with audiences. All recruited locally, they were selected through open auditions, and each girl had to meet strict height criteria and be “in perfect health, with evidence of six months regular school attendance”. Laidler considered their welfare of paramount importance.

Sara Packham said: “The tradition of the Sunbeams at the Alhambra Theatre pantomime is well-known to people in the local area. It’s very rewarding to see the children from my Dance School performing to such a high standard, enjoying themselves on the Alhambra stage and maintaining this wonderful tradition.

“These days it’s not so strict on the height restrictions and we have both girls and boys in the Sunbeams. The children’s dance and performance skills are still expected to be of an extremely high calibre and there’s a rigorous audition process for them to be selected to appear in the Alhambra Theatre pantomime.”

Visit or call 01274 432000 to book tickets for Cinderella.