A LOCAL drama group has been forced to cancel its panto for the first time in 60 years.

Generations of children have enjoyed the Greenock Players fun festive show ever since the curtain first went up in the Arts Guild 60 years ago.

The group, founded by Ray Linn Craig and her husband George Brown, celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2018 and started performing pantos in 1960.

Nicola McEachnie, 35, was due to direct this year's show.

She said: "I think we knew it was coming.

"We clung on to a wee bit of hope as long as we could, but I feel this decision is in the interests of everyone."

At its height back in the glory days at the Arts Guild - with a two week run with two performances on a Saturday - the Players' seasonal spectacular was the longest-running amateur production in Britain.

Chris Gavin has been a stalwart for 25 years - taking on all sorts of roles, including everything from the dame to the baddie and in between.

He said: "Even if venues were open to do the show, there is also the rehearsal process to consider.

"It's sad that it's happened but at least we are not dependent on it for our livelihood."

Chris, 52, says the pandemic is the only thing that has stopped the Players performing.

Even the sudden death of much-loved president Dr Geoff Horton, who'd been performing in the 2003 pantomime, failed to halt the run.

Chris said: "His wife Glenda was of the opinion that Geoff would have wanted the show to go."

During another year heavy snow delayed the start but the troopers carried on.

Greenock Players moved to the Beacon in 2013 with a shorter run but the group still holds the record for the longest running pantomime in terms of consecutive years.

Lynne McGachy, who has been a member since 2012, said: "I'm absolutely gutted this year's show is off."

Newcomer Lee Docherty, who has been with the Players for the last few years, added: "The cancellation is very disappointing but it can't be helped.

"It is the highlight of everyone's year, both on stage and backstage."


From left are Nicola and Lee and (back) Lynne and Chris.