The St Anne’s College that made stars of stage and screen!
1979 and 1980 was a great time to be a teenager in St Anne’s – especially if you went to the Lytham St Annes College of Further and Higher Education.
Situated in the elegant building, next to the library, on Clifton Drive (which is now private flats), the college was uber convenient for beach and The Grand Hotel bar! We seemed to be there a lot.
I was on the Drama course, which combined A levels with LAMDA (acting) bronze and silver medals.
Landing at the college, on this course, enabled me to exhale with relief because I had finally found some arty types to hang out with. In fact, I count those two years among the best in my life!
The college had a large bright art department in the upstairs front of the building (some lucky residents now live there) a hall with stage and a gym. It also annexed the St Anne’s YMCA buildings for Drama, too.
Drama classes here enabled quirky imaginations to flourish. Typically, The Drama teacher would give us a title for an improvisation, such as ‘The Ship’ and a time limit. In groups, we could create ANYTHING – and we did!
I remember with that title, we somehow created a moody ship that glided ominously across the stage, in utter silence. The End.
I recall, also, that we were hugely affected by the threat of imminent nuclear annihilation and would create numerous improvisations about the three minute warning and the blast (sometimes using dramatic slo-mo action). The teachers must have yawned and thought, not this again…
Whilst I was there, the College production was a home-written extravaganza of a musical called, ‘Schizophrenia’.
Mental illness is an unlikely theme for a light hearted musical and I think, today, it would be considered an abomination of political incorrectness. However, we all gave it some.
It was here that I learned of my ability to sing badly and was devastated. I recall clearly the lyrics: “Schizophrenia – dividing your mind, where it will lead you, don’t know!” I was belting it out.
The teacher suddenly stopped us all, shouting, “Someone’s singing flat!” it was mortifying.
At Christmas, at the combined college campus in Bispham (we were taken by bus) we surprised the other colleges by doing an elaborate conga at the Carol Service, encouraged by the festive cider drunk just before it, early am.
There was a Halloween trip to Pendle Hill, put on by The Students Union. We got on a bus, drank cider, climbed the hill, got back on the bus and came home.
Local resident, Christina Manning, who was on the Drama course at the college at the same time as me, explained, “It was the most liberating experience to be on the Drama course, at St Annes. School and its restrictions were over and I felt happy. All in all, it was a fantastic time.”
The brilliant friends I met there were easily among the most creative people I have ever met. They came from schools and a convent in the local area and played instruments, wrote songs and poetry, were in bands, dressed strikingly and doubled me up with their sense of humour.
Luckily, I am still in contact with a number of them and we still have a great time on social media and when we meet up.
Many of my friends went on to have creative careers and be household names.
One has starred in Harry Potter and Mike Leigh films, a couple have been in Coronation Street, One stars in Hollyoaks.
Some are teachers and work in charities, enriching the lives of the extremely lucky people they come into contact with.
As for me, I’ve taught Drama and I have a performance group of my own.
I think that it is fair to say the college was a truly inspiring place!
By Debra Preston Helle