Hilary May was awarded the prestigious Sybil Thorndike Trophy at the SFD’s Annual General Meeting on Saturday. The announcement was met with huge applause from the assembled members in recognition of the high esteem and great fondness in which she is held.
Hilary was involved with David Beach at the Williton Players where she was writing reviews for the local press. David and competition coordinator Rod Hancox persuaded her to come on board at the SFD as an adjudicator for the Phoebe Rees Competition, our competition for plays. She then became an adjudicator for the David Beach Competition for musicals, eventually taking on the mantle of moderator after Mary Hobbs stepped down. In talking to people about Hilary’s reviews, one theme comes through time an time again, Hilary has always been incredibly encouraging and supportive, even when pointing out areas for improvement. As one person said, “She was always one of the most encouraging adjudicators and however bad a production was, Hilary always found something nice to say about it!” And that approach has been true throughout her involvement at the SFD, where she still sits on the committee as a Member Rep.
But her work at the SFD, though hugely important, has not been her most important contribution to amateur theatre. Following her time at Williton she became a founding member of Barnstormers in Minehead. Founded in 1979, Barnstormers began by “barnstorming” their productions to a wide variety of West Somerset venues. These days they perform at the Regal Theatre, producing about 3 shows a year. Over the years they have produced a wide range of work from musical plays to comedy; straight plays to cutting edge experimental drama; play readings and social events. Members of the Somerset Fellowship of Drama, they submit their productions for adjudication in county competitions and have achieved many successes. And Hilary has been at the heart of that success.
In recent years she has been involved in an advisory capacity with Fusion Young Performers from Minehead who are a very talented group of youngsters who have so far very much impressed the David Beach team. Last year they shared the Best overall Youth production trophy with another of our top youth groups. Hilary is also actively involved in the Regal Theatre in Minehead.
Away from amateur drama she was an Occupational Therapist before she retired, and was employed by Somerset NHS for 40 years. Following a diagnosis of cancer, she became the face of Hope for Tomorrow, a charity dedicated to bring cancer treatment closer to people’s homes. She became an ambassador for them in 2014. She is also a member of the parish church in Alcombe and she helped to run the West Somerset Stroke Club to help people recovering from strokes.
In presenting the award SFD Chairman Sam Allen said, “When I was asking people “What should I say about Hilary?” the overwhelming response from everyone was that Hilary is quite simply a lovely person; she is loved by everyone. And she is eminently suited to be awarded the SFD’s most prestigious annual award, The Sybil Thorndike Trophy.”
In response, Hilary, who was awarded SFD Life Membership in 2015, said that she loves working with the SFD and it has been a great pleasure over the years, helping to develop her and teaching her so much. She thanked the SFD for giving her the award.