This week's TRM content includes some personal memories, the sadness of a lost friend, and details of a gloriously triumphant tribute.

Milford Haven's Viv Barrat and I were friends for 60 years.  Sadly, she passed away a few weeks ago, and today I want to pay my respects by reflecting back on our friendship by underlining how  much she helped me in many of my charity fundraising efforts, particularly over the last four decades, usually aided by her St Katharine Stratford Players. 

It was during the 1990s that I began writing stories and plays to help raise funds for local charities, and turned to Viv and Dave, her late husband, for their help to "make them work," and they never failed me.

A string of successful productions followed, including Sentimental Journey, Land Ladies, The 1958 Show, War and Pieces of Milford, Uncle Martin's Secret, The Road from Little Milford, and Dial O for Orgy.

Venues included the Torch Theatre, Esso's Kings Function Centre, Pill Social Centre, and the Church Hall.

Last November, Viv and I liaised again, as I wanted to include the history of the Stratford Players in my  TRM. Alas, it never happened, but I'm delighted that Geraint Sayers, the leading light of the St K S P's, has taken up the mantle and has kindly sent me this.

"Hi Jeff. St Katharine's Stratford Players started at the very beginning as a drama branch of Milford Opera, based at the Esso Refinery. After many successful productions the drama group branched out and found their own premises, the old Empire Cinema in Stratford Road, and became known as the Phoenix Players. 

“The building was completely derelict and a full renovation was required, which was duly completed with toilets installed in the backstage area whilst rehearsing and building the set for their first pantomime.

“After many happy years at the Empire, the Group had to relocate. Two different premises were found, the Tabernacle Church Hall and the St Katharine's Church Hall. As a result, two different groups were formed, The Tabernacle Players and St Katharine's Stratford Players.

“They opted for the latter name when they moved into the St Katharine's Church Hall, which is where the group has been ever since. The group has gone from strength to strength, now boasting over 100 members from the ages of seven to 77, which performs three shows a year, the adult play, the junior play and the annual, sell out Easter pantomime.

“They also participate in local events, which, in 2023, led to them being awarded the Mayor's Civic Award for outstanding contribution to the community."

Thanks Geraint. Great stuff.

Western Telegraph: Viv was a wonderful actress blessed with having excellent comic timing, and having followed them  over many years, I can vouch that the entertainment provided by this popular group of thespians is second to none.

It is a wonderful testament to Viv, along with the other seasoned players, whose dedication and hard work help so many youngsters cultivate their talent by affording them an outlet  to express themselves in a safe and worthwhile environment.

There was an old Music Hall ditty called Don't put your daughter on the stage Mrs Worthington, but in the case of the Stratford Players, I think such sentiments can be ignored. 

It was Viv's dying wish that her beloved group, the St Katharine's Stratford Players should go ahead with the 2024 Easter pantomime, the classic Cinderella which, despite the difficult circumstances, proved to be yet another resounding success, with every performance being a complete sell out.

Filled with the usual array of stunning, colourful costumes and imaginative sets, this was yet another extravaganza of music and laughter which raised the roof and warmed the cockles of your heart, leaving the captivated audiences wanting more.

The comments on their web page say it all. Here are just a few from the deluge they received.

Nicky Lovell said: "Fantastic performance"

Faith Mackeen wrote: "You were all absolutely amazing." 

Margaret Hunter added: "Absolutely brilliant feel good show"

Hayley Claire said: "It was fantastic. Thank you to each and every one of you for a wonderful show."

Angela Saunders mused: "Brilliant performance. Viv would have been so proud of you all. We never stopped laughing from start to finish."

Viv will be remembered and missed by so many, and I hope this little tribute has done her justice.

I know she would've loved these words of wisdom from actress Julia Richardson: "I'm a child of the sixties. I still wear jeans and yes, my bum looks big in them, then, my bum looked big in 1965.”

See you next week. Take care, and please stay safe.