All Those On Board: celebrating the fight to save our lidos

Otley Courthouse is the sold out venue on 7 June for Drip Drop Theatre’s All Those On Board, a vibrant, heartfelt production that taps into our love of lidos and the campaigns to restore them.

Otley, where the campaign to restore the lido continues, was an obvious location to stage a performance. I was lucky to catch one of the seven performances of this original production mid-run, at Saltburn Community Arts Theatre.

For a short tour production, this is ambitious. The twelve actors are often on stage together, singing and dancing throughout. Intelligent staging, a good script and great songs mean the ambition pays off. The final performance will be at Victoria Hall, Grange-over-Sands on Saturday 8th June.

Writer E. C. R. Roberts’ inspiration came from a visit to a Save Grange Lido meeting in 2021, whilst visiting her mother in Grange-over-Sands. The campaign still continues, as does the campaign to restore Otley Lido. The show follows the efforts of a fictional campaign to restore a lido, charting the ups and downs of such a monumental task. The story will resonate with many people who since 2016 have been part of Friends of Otley Lido CIC

The musical contains an incredible 15 original songs. Love Your Lido, a journey through lido heritage and their place in our hearts, opens and closes the show. There is variety in both performance and mood. Male, female and whole cast ensembles perform accompanied by a variety of instruments including: piano, cello, violin, ukele, clarinet, cajon and recorder. Mood moves from the nostalgic Looking Back (a celebration of the 1980s), comic Someone Like Me to the poignant To Her.

Roberts has directed, choreographed and performs in the piece. The choreography is a great example of how you can add to a song and story without using professional dancers or vast spaces. Movements emphasise words, develop character and add further comic touches.

Colour is central to the visual impact of the show. Travelling productions make backdrops difficult. Instead, the stage is dressed with striped deckchairs. Beachballs, umbrellas and bathing hats add further vibrancy. The production is supported by Cool Bathing, who have made special bathing hats for the show and sell Love Your Lido hats at each performance. Quickly managed costume changes add further interest, including a beach scene where characters change on stage. A ripple of laughter crossed the audience as outlandish combinations appeared.

The actors work well together. Characters develop depth during the show. Caroline, the chair of SOL (Save our Lido), played by Rachel Burton, initially seemed rather two dimensional, but we see different sides to her character as the show progresses. Even the stereotypical Lenny, Mike Way, shows a deeper vein when he talks about his memories of lidos. The delivery was excellent. I did not miss a single word of dialogue, lyric or note of music; an extraordinary feat, given that no microphones were involved.

As a child and teenager, Roberts spent many happy hours at Ilkley Lido. She has dedicated the musical to all those groups who are campaigning to save lidos. She gives special mention to Leonie Sharp and the Friends of Otley Lido Group in the programme.

The relevance of the piece is shown by the sold out status for the Otley performance. You might be lucky and be able to get returns on the night or you could pop along to buy a bathing cap or learn about the campaign to restore Otley Lido. This is a production that deserves a longer run. I can see it being embraced locally at Kings Hall in Ilkley or even on a small stage at Leeds Playhouse.

The Cast

Get tickets here if you can.

Photography by Sarah Ford, Harrogate.

Do you have a story to tell?
We want to hear your stories and help you share them.