This is supposed to be Big Summer Production costumier Lesley Newell‘s last year.

“I’m a do it ahead person on the basis that if something comes up at the last minute you’ve got time so I’ve already done a lot. But I’m still thinking ‘are my helpers gonna come’, ‘what have I got’, ‘what are we doing’.

“That’s when I start to think I’ve got stuff to do in the garden, I’ve got this to do,  it’s taking up too much time but I probably will – I want an excuse for collecting clothes and fabric,” she joked.

Lesley and her team of Greta SollyJan ParkerRuth PiatkusLeah Watson and Bethany Loft have spent some 300 sewing hours crafting around 50 costumes for the cast of this year’s Big Summer Production Aladdin.

“It’s one costume for each of the kids. Some years we’ve done more, so this is much easier. I start thinking about the next show a year ahead, once we know what the show is. Aladdin has a specific look – it’s the shapes, the sparkles, all that sort of thing. I must admit this year I had to watch the DVD but what we’ve done here is different again.

This is the third year she’s had a team of volunteers – from students to retirees – who you can just about see behind a mountain of fabric, press studs, elastic, sewing machines, glue guns…

“We go from people in their 80s down to 18 so it’s a good mix. They’re really good with the children too and helping with measuring for costumes and all that stuff. Next year it would be good to have more.”

Through the year, Lesley collects bits and pieces she thinks may work.

“I buy stuff in charity shops when I’m out and about, I’ve got a few favourites… It might be a dress, a coat,  an outfit. It might be fabric, belts, jewellery, anything that looks like we could use it or we could alter it. Quite a bit comes like that.”

Then there’s The Garage‘s costume cupboard which gets a little fuller each year.

“We take stuff out, alter it, turn it inside out if it’s right for it and we’ve also got boxes of fabric so we go through the stash and see what’s going to be right. The other place we get them from is the Sheringham Community Wardrobe. We’ve been going there for a few years. I’ll tell the lady who runs it when I take this year’s back what we’re doing next year and she’ll say ‘oh we’ve got…’. They’re very good. There’s the market as well.”

Most of the team’s work is alterations, which she jokes takes longer than making stuff from scratch.

“This year only the genie costumes have been done from scratch. If I’d known about Jasmine’s band I’d have made long floaty skirts for them. You can run up a skirt from scratch a lot quicker.

One year I made proper waistcoats, so they were a heavy fabric, fully-lined so you could turn them inside out, that took me four hours but they were so worthwhile, I don’t regret it. They go in the cupboard and you use them again. I worked for the NHS all my working life so this is totally different and fun.”

The Big Summer Production of Aladdin takes the stage Friday 16 August and Saturday 17 August.

We’d like to say an immense thank you to everybody’s who’s been part of the Big Summer Production these part 10 years. It’s your show, not ours and we’re proud of the success you’ve made of it.

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