Co-op Juniors visionary director Pauline Walker dies
- 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 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.
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.”
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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.”
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.