Lancaster theatre’s biggest fan has garden full of props

Bernard Gladstone with teh Mad Hatter's hat, bringing back memories of The Dukes production of Alice in Wonderland in 1997.
Bernard Gladstone with teh Mad Hatter's hat, bringing back memories of The Dukes production of Alice in Wonderland in 1997.

Bernard Gladstone just has to wander down his garden path to be reminded of 30 years of The Dukes summer outdoor walkabout shows.

For his garden, packed full of props and memorabilia, pays homage to the 41 productions staged by the Lancaster theatre in Williamson Park since 1987.

Bernard Gladstone in his awardwinning garden which features a statue from The Dukes 2016 The Hobbit.

Bernard Gladstone in his awardwinning garden which features a statue from The Dukes 2016 The Hobbit.

“I have seen many magical park shows and it’s nice to have a reminder of them in my garden,” said Bernard.

His garden in Bolton-le-Sands is a labour of love and a tribute to his other passion – The Dukes where he’s been honorary archivist since the Seventies.

His greenfingers have earned him prizes galore in the Bolton-le-Sands best kept village garden competition over the years.

And he even won a Making A Difference Award at the 2011 Lancashire & Blackpool Tourism Awards for his dedication to volunteering at The Dukes.

Bottom's head used in the very first Dukes outdoor prodction 30 years ago has a special place in Bernard's garden.

Bottom's head used in the very first Dukes outdoor prodction 30 years ago has a special place in Bernard's garden.

For 25 years, Bernard looked after the cast and crew at the dressing rooms in Williamson Park, known as Base Camp.

Having been a stalwart volunteer and having seen all The Dukes promenade productions put Bernard in the perfect position to build up a collection of props used in the shows.

The oldest – and most weatherbeaten – is Bottom’s head from the original production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream 30 years ago.

And the latest – and biggest – is a 10 foot high statue from last year’s production of The Hobbit which won a UK Theatre Award.

Bernard with the sword in the stone from The Dukes 1990 outdoor production of King Arthur.

Bernard with the sword in the stone from The Dukes 1990 outdoor production of King Arthur.

But scattered throughout the garden are many more memories of Dukes outdoor productions from Wind in the Willows to Peter Pan and from The Jungle Book to Jason & The Argonauts.

When summer is over, most of the artefacts have to be put into storage which is a month long job in itself.

And as this year’s 30th anniversary production of Treasure Island reaches the end of its extended run on August 19, there could well be a prop or two heading for what can only be described as a hidden jewel of a garden.

Could the Treasure Island shark be his next prop?

Bernard with the sword in the stone from The Dukes 1990 outdoor production of King Arthur.

Bernard with the sword in the stone from The Dukes 1990 outdoor production of King Arthur.

Btoom's head used in the very first Dukes outdoor prodction 30 years ago has a special place in Bernard's garden.

Btoom's head used in the very first Dukes outdoor prodction 30 years ago has a special place in Bernard's garden.