A prominent figure in local theatre has been recognised with a Spirit of Theatre trophy, after 65 years working in the amateur scene.

Rita Brown, 81, was awarded the Wharfedale Festival of Theatre Spirit of Theatre Trophy – now known as The Pat Dyson Memorial Trophy – for her outstanding contribution to amateur theatre.

Mrs Brown first got involved with amateur theatre at the age of 16, when she joined the West Hartlepool Technical College Student Operatic Society. She was also a founder member of the College Gilbert and Sullivan Society, playing in the chorus.

She moved to Ilkley in 1956 and, after bringing up her family, joined the Ilkley Amateur Operatic Society in 1966, taking part in Wild Violets.

The next year saw her take the leading role of Laurey in Oklahoma. Many leading roles followed.

In 1970, work took the family to Zambia, where Rita joined The Little Theatre at Kitwe and played in The Pirates of Penzance and Man from La Mancha. As Rita said it was rather too far to come to rehearsals in Ilkley, but when leave from Zambia coincided with shows in Ilkley she was able to still take part.

Mrs Brown has been in more than 40 musicals and several gala concerts with Ilkley Amateur Operatic Society. Of the few times she has not been on stage, she helped backstage.

She has twice been the society’s president, in the 60th anniversary year in 1983-84 and in 2007-8.

She still performs with the society and is in rehearsal for the forthcoming gala concert at Ilkley Playhouse on October 24 and 25.

Ilkley Playhouse has also featured in her theatre work, where she played in Weird Sisters, Lady in the Van, Good Companions and The Stirrings in Sheffield on Saturday Night.

Mrs Brown also volunteers front of house at the Playhouse.