Co-op Juniors visionary director Pauline Walker dies

Jeannie Ingram and Gary Avis with Pauline Walker, right, at Co-op Juniors Christmas Spectacular at Snape Maltings in 2017.

Jeannie Ingram and Gary Avis with Pauline Walker, right, at Co-op Juniors Christmas Spectacular at Snape Maltings in 2017. Pauline hasdied following a long illness Photo: Alan Ayres - Credit: Archant

Ipswich theatre legend Pauline Walker, director of the Co-op Juniors with Jeannie Ingram since 1978, has died following an extended illness.

Pauline Walker, the inspirational director of the Coop Juniors, who was has died at the age of 78 Photo: Simon Parker

Pauline Walker, the inspirational director of the Coop Juniors, who was has died at the age of 78 Photo: Simon Parker

Pauline Walker died peacefully at home on Sunday aged 78. For many years Pauline Walker was one of a dynamic team that made the Co-op Juniors Theatre Company one of the most ambitious, creative arts companies in Suffolk; running education classes, producing dance shows and staging musicals both at the Ipswich Regent and the Snape Maltings Concert Hall.

She taught hundreds of youngsters throughout the years, cast them in their first shows, taught them professionalism and encouraged some to go onto further training and celebrated careers as professional dancers including Gary Avis who is ballet master with the Royal Ballet, Vincent Redmon who danced with Sadler’s Wells and Rambert Dance Company, and Joanne Clarke who spent seven years with the English National Ballet.

Pauline lived for theatre and dance. She joined the Co-op Juniors aged nine in 1951 and appeared in many shows at the Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe. She and Jeannie became choreographers, then directors, boosting the company’s profile and ambition, staging pantomimes and musicals at the Ipswich Regent for 25 years. Pauline also taught vibrant dance classes to hundreds of children at her Sidegate Lane Academy.

Pauline Walker and Jeannie Ingram with ESTAA 2004 lifetime achievement awards. Pauline Walker has died after a lengthy...

Pauline Walker and Jeannie Ingram with ESTAA 2004 lifetime achievement awards. Pauline Walker has died after a lengthy illness. Photo: Co-op Juniors

Alan Ayres, who helped create the visual look of the shows, said: “The Co-op Juniors’ move to Snape Maltings for Christmas Spectacular in 2005 reinvigorated the company, which celebrated its 15th anniversary show at the venue in 2019.

“Passionate, determined and creative, Pauline set high standards for herself and the Co-op Juniors. Pauline retired in 2018 due to illness, but her legacy continues to influence the company. The performance skills she gave to so many young people, many of them now working professionally in the arts and entertainment world, will never be forgotten.“

Jeannie Ingram, Pauline’s co-director and producing partner, said, “Pauline and I brought different skills to the Co-op Juniors and, together, we embarked on a great adventure which took us through the Felixstowe and Regent years to Snape Maltings. The success and vibrancy of the group is founded on her enthusiasm, passion and a huge reservoir of ideas. We all miss her desperately but her legacy lives on.”

Pauline Walker (left) and Jeannie Ingram of the Coop Juniors with some of their young dancers in 2011 Photo; Simon Parker

Pauline Walker (left) and Jeannie Ingram of the Coop Juniors with some of their young dancers in 2011 Photo; Simon Parker

Most Read

Gary Avis, senior ballet master and a principal character artist at The Royal Ballet, paid tribute to Pauline Walker’s influence on his early dancing career.

“Pauline was a tour de force of excellence and dedication. Her energy and desire to give young people a chance to shine in large productions at major venues, pushing them to be better, making them proud of themselves and what they achieved, was instrumental in my early years as a dancer and performer.

“From those first ever ballet classes at Bolton Lane to living the dream on the Ipswich Regent stage, I shall be forever grateful to her and the Co-op Juniors family for being there for me while growing up in Suffolk. Pauline was legendary for her inspirational, demanding yet committed influence on so many and I am privileged to have been able to call her a friend. An enormous loss.”

Gary Avis, as Tarzan, centre, in one of his many Co-op Juniors outings directed by Pauline Walker. Photo: James Fletcher

Gary Avis, as Tarzan, centre, in one of his many Co-op Juniors outings directed by Pauline Walker. Photo: James Fletcher - Credit: Archant

Pauline and Jeannie’s work with young people was recognised in 2004 by a Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2019 they were nominated as Community Champions of the Year.

Pauline is survived by her husband Brian, daughters Angela and Kerry and their families.

Pauline Walker and Jeannie Ingram reminisce about their time with the Co-op Juniors
Photo: Sarah Lucy Brown

Pauline Walker and Jeannie Ingram reminisce about their time with the Co-op Juniors Photo: Sarah Lucy Brown

Pauline Walker
, visionary director of the Co-op Juniors, who has died following a long illness Photo: Co-op Juniors

Pauline Walker , visionary director of the Co-op Juniors, who has died following a long illness Photo: Co-op Juniors

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter