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Final curtain for world famous Rylstone Calendar Girls
8:00am Friday 5th October 2012 in News
A group of women whose journey started with a modest ambition to raise a few pounds for cancer research into non-Hodgkins lymphoma are about to draw the curtain down on their sky-rocketing fundraising adventure.
So captivating was the story of the women of the Rylstone and District Women’s Institute that it blossomed into a worldwide phenomenon, sparked the film Calendar Girls, a stage show and umpteen copycat versions of the calendar.
Six of the original Calendar Girls are still fundraising - Angela Baker, Tricia Stewart, Chris Clancy, Lynda Logan, Ros Fawcett and Beryl Bamforth - and to date they have raised more than £3 million for the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research Now, 14 years on, Angela and her friends have decided to keep their clothes on and not pose for another calendar, although they will continue to give talks and make guest appearances.
“We want to go out on a high and not have people saying ‘why don’t those ladies stop doing this?’,” said Angela. “The Calendar Girls will also live on with the amateur productions of the stage show which will take place over the next 18 months and, perhaps, the professional stage show will come back next year.”
Meanwhile, the ladies’ efforts will be celebrated with a spectacular gala performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London on Sunday.
It is hoped the Seasons of Love event - billed as the Calendar Girls’ big finale - will push the total raised to more than £4 million.
Hosted by Alan Titchmarsh and Christa Ackroyd, the show will feature performances by top names, including the stars of the film and stage show, the City of London Philharmonic, the West End Chorus, Peter Skellern and Richard Stilgoe There will also be memories and footage of a story which captured the imagination of the public. It was Angela’s husband John’s diagnosis with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1998 which prompted the calendar. He died aged 54, a few months after he became ill.
He also was the inspiration of the symbol of the campaign, a sunflower, which Angela always wears as a reminder of him.
She said: “We started our fundraising because John had died and what we have achieved is amazing. It has been very, very hard, watching the film and stage show. For me, it was a family tragedy, but, at the same time, it is brilliant that out of disaster has come something positive.
“It has been a great opportunity and the reaction we have had has been heartwarming. Lots of people lose loved ones, but not many have been able to do what we have done.”
Angela, who has been married to retired vicar Charles Knowles for seven years, said she was nervous about Sunday’s finale, which will include previously unseen pictures of the girls.
“Just the thought of the Royal Albert Hall makes me apprehensive, but I will relish and cherish the moment,” she added.
* Tickets for Seasons of Love are available from 020 7589 8212 or visit royalalberthall.com