Bare cheek - The Calendar Girls of Cheadle Hulme

How the ladies of a Cheadle Hulme theatre company will make history when they reveal all in Calendar Girls WORDS BY PATRICK O'NEILL PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

September 2012 is a daring date in the Cheadle Hulme calender. That is when the likely lasses of CHADS will bare all. It will be an historic moment for the theatre company: their amateur premi�re of Calendar Girls.

It is another milestone for the theatre that this year celebrates its 90th birthday with a programme which according to artistic co-ordinator John Smeathers will ‘raise our profile in the community.’ You can say that again.

Born in 1921, the year when car tax discs were introduced and the Royal British Legion founded its first official poppy day, Chads is to local theatre what the original Calendar Girls were to Yorkshire photography. The Yorkshire ladies produced a nude calendar to raise money for charity.

Chads bring a refreshing creativity to a traditional art form. With ages ranging from to three to 104 they span a complete spectrum of theatrical endeavour. This season’s productions for example include Alan Bennett’s The Lady in the Van and Cs.S Lewis’s The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The chance for Calendar Girls arrived because the show’s producers wanted to break the Guinness Book of Records and establish the most productions of one play in one year. So for the first time the amateur rights for Calendar Girls will be released for 12 months from September 2012.

And Chads are not the only people to be celebrating their 90th anniversary in Cheadle Hulme this year. In 1921 John Waterhouse founded his grocer’s shop in Mellor Road. (For the statistical minded 1921 was also the year when near-neighbours Stockport County played Leicester City  - a match attended by 13 spectators, the lowest crowd ever recorded by the Football League.)

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Not that all is history here. In the summer the local library opens a new children’s section, where according to librarian Paula Burgess they will also launch a readers’ challenge with the aim of  getting children to read books in the summer. ‘It’s an important event. Kids love to look at books and listen to stories.’

There’s family fun in the sun on June 4th with the Cheadle Festival at Schools Hill.  Here there will be a fun fair, stalls, licensed bar, and It’s a Knockout.

But equally important is June 25th.  That’s the date of the next Wildlife Walk in Abney Hall Park: 213 acres of trees, ponds, wildflowers, butterflies, birds and bats. Here Agatha Christie spent many a happy Christmas and featured Abney Hall in her ‘Adventures of a Christmas Pudding’. Among other visitors were Prince Albert, Disraeli and Gladstone.

Now it’s the turn of Kate Peacock, deputy head of High View School, who with Jill Goulden  and the other ‘Friends of Abney Park’ are dedicated to clearing and protecting the ponds, planting 2,000 bulbs, paying for the refurbishment of all the benches and organising regular ‘task days’. They are usually held on a Sunday from 11am. For more information  contact 0797 061 4925.

They are also passionate about proving that their village is top dog in the age-old rivalry between Cheadle and Cheadle Hulme.

‘We are far older. Cheadle is in the Domesday Book. We’ve got 13 pubs, plenty of shops, swimming pool and sports centres and the church still has its own bell ringers,’ said Kate.

Ding, dong. On the day we visited, a buzzard was hunting the park, a peacock butterfly brought colour to the lawn before Abney Hall and park ranger Rachel Bennett pointed out a pond full of newts, coots, mallard, moorhen, dragonflies and damselflies. Not surprisingly Abney Park is designated a site of special biological interest.

Cheadle today in fact, attracts interest from far and near. Its latest recruit, artist Ahmet Kanak has travelled all the way from Turkey to set up the Loka Art Gallery on Wilmslow Road. ‘Cheadle people are very supportive.’ he said. ‘Ez ji Cheadle hezdikin,’ he added in his native Kurdish. Which I’m sure you all know means ‘I love Cheadle.’

Of course it does.

He also believes in personal service as does Jill Hughes at Crissan on Church Road which is celebrating 20 years of fashionable excellence. It is a belief shared by Mike Dargan, landlord of the White Hart, whose pub next to St Mary's Church is, according to Cheshire Life’s resident lensman John Cocks, the most photographed in Cheadle. ‘There’s been a pub here since 1779,’ he said. ‘I feel very privileged to work here.’

A newcomer to the area is Lucy Pearson, recently appointed Head of Cheadle Hulme School. She had previously been Deputy Head at Wellington College and Vice Principal of Wellington Academy. An Oxford University graduate she is not only a high-achieving academic, Lucy is also a successful international sportswoman. She opened the bowling for the England Women’s Cricket Team from 1996 until 2005, achieving a world record in the Second Ashes Test at Sydney in 2003, as well as twice being named Player of the Year.

She said: ‘Pupils need to be independent thinkers; they need to be resourceful and adaptable; they need to know how to be part of a team. Developing our facilities is one part of the vision, but education is about people; by keeping our focus people-centred, not exam-driven, we will ensure CHS’s continued success in providing the challenging, dynamic and relevant education that we believe young people need.’

Another high archiever is Zoe Arshamian from Cheadle Hulme, currently in the third year at London’s Central School of Ballet. She recently toured to the Lowry theatre at Salford Quays with Ballet Central.

In fact there are good times ahead for all the upwardly-mobile folk in this part of Cheshire.  Because, like the ladies who are prepared to bare all for Calendar Girls at Chads, the future for the citizens of Cheadle and Cheadle Hulme, looks revealing, rewarding and refreshing.And that’s what I call success in the three Rs.

In the reign of Henry VIII, the current St Mary's Church was built. The church contains an effigy of John Stanley who, along with many other men from the area, fought in the Battle of Flodden Field.

During Bonnie Prince Charlie's uprising the Young Pretender’s  troops marched through Cheadle. Some relics of the '45 have been found, including swords.

During the seventh century St Chad preached in the area and a stone cross dedicated to him was found close to the confluence of the River Mersey and Micker Brook 

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