With a heritage of 80 years, the Co-op Juniors Theatre Company is one of the largest youth musical theatre groups in the UK. We work with people aged 7-21 from all backgrounds to produce vibrant, innovative and original theatre across east Suffolk’s top venues.

We love working with young people and pride ourselves on our family ethos and sense of community. Every new membership year, our cast grow to look upon each other as family and make close friends for life.

As a charity, we aim to make our performing arts opportunities accessible to as many young people as possible. To honour the legacy of Pauline Walker, an inspirational director of the company for 40 years, the Pauline Walker Bursary Fund enables us to provide bursaries and financial support for our members.

We have worked with generations of performers and we’re proud that our members develop the skills and confidence they need to train professionally at leading UK drama schools with many currently performing in London’s West End.

We believe in the power and value of creativity. In a safe, inclusive and inspiring environment, we give young people the confidence to realise their full potential though the expressive and collaborative process of making theatre.










The Co-op Juniors Theatre Company provides members with the skills and experience necessary to pursue further training in the arts, if they choose to. We offer careers guidance, advice and support to all company members.

Many Theatre company members go on to train at conservatories and universities to study for degrees, diplomas and profession qualifications in dance, drama and musical theatre.


Arts Education School
Bird College
English National Ballet
Evolution Foundation College
Goldsmiths, University of London
Guildford School of Acting
Guildhall School of Music & Drama
Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts
Laine Theatre Arts
LMA London
London College of Music
London Studio Centre
Mountview Academy Of Theatre Arts
Performers College
Rose Bruford College of Theatre & Performance
Scottish Ballet
The Academy of Live and Recorded Arts
The Northern School of Contemporary Dance
The Royal Academy of Dance
The Royal Ballet
The Royal Central School Of Speech & Drama
The Royal College of Music
The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama
The Urdang Academy


50s & 60s

The Co-op Juniors started out in 1942 in the middle the Second World War, as the local Co-op Member Education Committee sought to provide a means to take children’s minds off the trauma of war.

Our first production was a pantomime of Aladdin. performed at the Ipswich Art Gallery in 1943. This was staged by Mr. Sid Johnson. As the group continued Pat Monk and Joy Ledgerwood succeeded Mr Johnson as directors.

The newly founded Co-op Juniors provided the incentive to set up local Co-operative Children’s Dancing classes, to teach the basics of ballet and tap and from where many graduated to the Co-op Juniors. These classes have developed today into our successful Theatre Academy.

Our first two productions Aladdin in 1942 and Dick Whittington in 1943


As our experience and standards developed, so our audiences grew larger. A new venue was needed. In the early fifties, we performed our first show at the Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe, which played host to the Co-op Juniors for the next three decades. The Felixstowe theatre was not, however, our only venue – we toured many of these early pantomimes. Indeed, in 1953 the Co-op Juniors performed their pantomime of that year, Humpty Dumpty, at the Ipwich Hippodrome to raise money for those affected by the devistating East Coast Floods

Throughout this period we were led by Pat and Joy, who wrote, directed and often performed in our shows.

Simple Simon 1964 (top) and Cobbler Cobbler, Mend My Shoe 1963 (bottom)

50s & 60s

1978 saw the start of a major new era for the Co-op Juniors. We moved to the Regent Theatre, then known as the Gaumont, with a production of The Queen of Hearts. Pat and Joy had retired and the new production was produced by Richard Leggatt, with Pauline Walker and Jeannie Ingram as directors.

Pauline and Jeannie, who had both performed with the company since the early 1950s, went on to direct over two decades’ of shows at the Regent Theatre. The pair were joined in 1985 by Nigel Virley, as musical director. Not only did Nigel direct the band throughout this time, he penned many stunning original numbers which have entered the Co-op Juniors repetoire and wrote the scripts for over 15 years’ of Christmas productions.

With the growth of the company through the 1980s, we performed with stars of the era Bob Monkhouse, Little and Large, Shane Richie and the Baron Knights, and became the subject of a TV documentary, with our work to avert the closure of the Regent Theatre.


Through the 1990s the company moved away from traditional pantomime, developing our own style of Christmas family entertainment. Our shows grew as we embarked on evermore challenging productions such as The Wind in the Willows and the award-winning A Christmas Carol.

In 1995 the company embarked on a new venture, staging summer musicals. Our first at the Regent Theatre was The Sound of Music, with successes such as Oliver!, My Fair Lady and Les Misérables following in next decade.

The Co-op Juniors entered the new millenium with record-breaking box office figures. Our 2000 Production of Peter Pan was seen by over 32,000 people and won the NODA Top Entertainer Award for the group.

The Sound of Music (1995), The King and I (1996) and Oliver! (2000)


After 26 years at the Regent Theatre, Ipswich Borough Council who had taken on the running of the theatre decided to change the venue’s Christmas bill. While the decision was a shock for many both inside and outside the company, the Co-op Juniors sought out a new opportunity.

Pauline, Jeannie and Nigel, together with our ever adventurous technical director, Alan Ayres, took on the challenge of a major new production. Our first Christmas Spectacular! was performed in 2005 for a sold-out run at the prestigious Snape Maltings Concert Hall, starting a new relationship that has continued to grow.

2005 saw the start of the Co-op Juniors annual festive extravaganza at Snape Maltings


As the vibrancy of Ipswich’s theatrical scene has exploded in the last decade, the Co-op Juniors have continued to evolve. We have explored new venues – performing major musicals such as Sister Act and The Phantom of the Opera at the New Wolsey Theatre, and smash hits such as Billy Eliott and Honk Jr at the Seckford Theatre in Woodbridge.

Our ingenutiy has been stretched with productions of Starlight Express at The Hush House, a former aircraft facility at Bentwaters, and Barnum in Circus Fantasia’s Big Top.

All this, while continuing to dazzle audience at Snape Maltings with our annual festive extravaganza, Christmas Spectacular! now in its 15th year.


Co-op Juniors Theatre Company

Appeal Fund

Your donation helps to secure the future of the Co-op Juniors Theatre Company and Academy, and its important role for Suffolk's young people and the arts. Find out more...

The Co-op Juniors Theatre Company are grateful for the support of the East of England Co-operative Society

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