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In August of 2022 we heard the sad news that Dennis Russell, a stalwart member of CODS for many years, had passed away.

Dennis had served CODS in many capacities and was honoured with the Kent Drama Association Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to
amateur theatre in Kent in 2015.

Dennis won this award having been nominated by Alison Withey-Harrison when he designed one of his wonderful sets for Wind in the Willows. He wrote the acceptance speech below for this award, which tells you all you need to know about his life in CODS and his many and varied roles within the society.

Kent Drama Association Lifetime Achievement Award – Acceptance Speech.

My connection with CODS lasts a long while as my mother was in the audience for the first CODS production in 1920. One of the founders of CODS – Daisy Allen – was my Sunday School teacher later on, as was my mother! My father was in the town band and played percussion in the CODS orchestra for musical shows between the wars. In those days all the players were local and did it for free!

My first connection was in the audience when CODS resumed activities after the second world war in 1946 and my father’s last participation in the pit was for The Mikado in 1952 and I saw a few productions here and there at the weekend when I was back in Cranbrook following National Service, college and my teaching career. I remember the 1960 production of Oklahoma with George Hudson as Curly. I also remember politely turning down a request to make some props including a stuffed bird for Annie to shoot down with her gun in 1969. Annie Get Your Gun was at the Regal Cinema but the rest were all at the Vestry Hall.

I had no regular contact with the CODS until after I retired when they had moved to Queen’s Hall. I had been advised to lie low for a year and find my feet or I would never escape! What sound and correct advice.

I watched Fiddler on the Roof in 1988 and upon entering the auditorium was asked if I had joined the Society. I truthfully said “No” and was thrown in at the deep end with The Importance of being Earnest in 1989 but not before Geoffrey Grinstead had captured me to do the set for the first Cranbrook Pantomime in 1988-89.

A year later The Showtimers were born and I designed all their sets until they were absorbed by the CODS in 2011. I took over as Chairman following Geoffrey Grinstead’s resignation and directed more of the Cranbrook Pantos than anyone else. My first CODS production as set-designer was Oklahoma in 1989 and I continued designing all their shows until The Wizard of Oz in 2006 when Derek Moore took over.

I felt that my unbroken run as set designer, stage manager etc. ended with The Wizard of Oz in 2006 but I did continue with a number of other pantomimes for Showtimers and CODS after this including Jack and the Beanstalk, Alice in Wonderland, Robin Hood and Snow White, in addition to Annie for the CODS and Wind in the Willows.

I still assist with painting whenever I can be of use. Alison persuaded me to temporarily come out of retirement with Wind in the Willows as a one-off.

I have painted sets on the floor of the Queen’s Hall, Flishinghurst, my back lawn, my garage, in a large shed at Hartley Hotel and at the Barn Theatre in Smallhythe!

Although Set-Designer has been my regular title I have also Stage Managed a variety of productions spanning some fourteen years, I was in the cast of three plays, was Secretary of CODS for a number of years split into two periods, and I have been a member of the Show Selection Committee and on the Casting Committee for quite a few productions.

Since old age has prevented me from working backstage they have moved me by the usual front-of-house route to the Show Box-Office!



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