ONE of the joys of living in Romsey is the general friendliness and the many clubs that we have.

Of course we have our ‘spats’ from time to time, usually arising from different ideas of what is best for the town, but once settled, the town resumes its pleasant nature and it has to be admitted, having its own proper newspaper does a lot to keep the town together.

I came to Romsey in the late 1960s and one of the delights was RAODS’s annual, traditional pantomime, complete with a female ‘principal boy’ and an outrageous dame, whose garments removed during the strip tease had to be seen to be believed.

In those days, RAODS’s productions were staged in the Crosfield Hall. When Mr Crosfield of Embley Park paid for the hall to be built in 1937, he particularly had in mind the need for a place where plays could be staged. If you look at the side of main building you can see a tall narrow door where scenery could be slid onto the stage for performances.

The town already had a purpose-built cinema, opened in 1931, in Winchester Road. However with the rise of television, attendances at cinemas dropped sharply, the cinema closed and the Plaza became a bingo hall. Bingo also went into decline and the building was put on the market. The town’s amateur dramatic society, RAODS took the brave step of buying it, doing it up and converting it into a proper theatre. It has served us all well ever since. The architect Diane Hargreaves must be given much credit for this conversion.

The pantomimes have continued in traditional format, avoiding the lures of a professional TV personality around whom the pantomime is built, or worse by turning a perfectly good play into an over-loud musical, as happened to ‘Peter Pan’ at the Mayflower a few years back.

One of the features of Peter Pan is the fairy Tinker-Bell who flits around the stage as a light, fading when endangered, and brought back to life by the audience shouting that they believe in fairies. I have often wondered why Tinker-Bell came to be a light.

However, I now know why. I was walking along The Thicket in Whitenap one autumn evening, and coming the other way at first floor window level was a bright light not apparently attached to anything. If ever I wanted to believe in fairies, this was my moment. Prosaically it was probably a bird that had caught the evening sunshine.