A KEIGHLEY performing arts school is celebrating the return of Sunbeams!

Children from Sara Packham Theatre School will once again form part of the Sunbeams troupe in the annual panto at Bradford's Alhambra.

The 2023-24 show, which starts on December 9, is Cinderella.

The production stars the ever-popular Billy Pearce – Sara Packham Theatre School patron – as Buttons, with Emmerdale star Samantha Giles playing the wicked stepmother and celebrity baker and Strictly Come Dancing finalist John Whaite as Dandini.

"After four years' absence due to Covid the children are delighted to be performing at the Alhambra once again," says Sara.

She adds that despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the school "managed to survive" and student achievements were considerable.

Sara says: "We provided classes via Zoom, and although it was not ideal, standards were maintained and morale kept up.

"Exams were passed with flying colours, and students underwent preparation for auditions.

"Students have gained places for associate training with the Royal Ballet School, Moorland Ballet Academy and Renaissance Arts Scholars.

"Full-time places have been attained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the Central School of Ballet, Guildford School of Acting, Tring Park, Bird College, Italia Conti, the Hammond School, Trinity Laban and Moorland Ballet Academy.

"Also, several students have taken leading roles in musicals. Kitty and Felicity Moore and Joseph Smith played Jemima and Jeremy in local productions of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and many children auditioned successfully for pantomimes at Bradford Playhouse, Ilkley Upstagers and the Victoria Theatre in Halifax.

"One of our alumni, Niamh Alvey, who began training with us aged just two, has been awarded her first contract with Balletto Nazionale Italiano. Niamh herself was a Sunbeam many years ago!

"And another alumna, Eleanor Fikkert, has just returned from Paris, having competed in the prestigious Youth America Grand Prix international ballet competition.

"Both Niamh and Eleanor gained scholarships to train at Moorland Ballet Academy.

"Our exam results are also consistently high – the majority of the Royal Academy of Dance grades in the last session were distinctions."

Sara says the school is continuing to support district charities too.

In recent weeks it, together with members of the congregation at Keighley Shared Church, has raised nearly £1,000 for the Keys Community Detox programme. A recovery group meets weekly at the church.

For further information about the Sara Packham Theatre School and contact details, go to facebook.com/MissSaraPackham