A play about the life of Morley girl turned world champion cyclist Beryl Burton has been
publicly rehearsed at Morley Town Hall.
Beryl, which has been written by acclaimed television actress Maxine Peake, hits the stage of the West Yorkshire Playhouse on June 30.
Two extracts of the script were performed by the cast’s four actors on June 4, before an open question and answer session during which memories of Beryl’s life were recalled by friends and Morley residents who knew her well.
Beryl won five women’s road racing World Championship titles between 1959 and 1966 and broke the 12 hour cycling record when she travelled over 277 miles in half a day, in 1967.
Rebecca Gatward, the play’s director, said: “The more we’ve learned about Beryl during rehearsals the more aghast we are at how incredible she was.
“What Maxine wanted to demonstrate is that if what happened to Beryl happened now, everyone would know about her.”
The play focuses on Beryl’s entire life, but especially her triumphs over adversity and childhood illness and her heart-warming relationship with her husband Charlie, who she married in 1955.
She died of a heart attack, aged just 58, in 1996.
Coun Terry Grayshon said: “It’s always interesting to hear stories about people and how they lived, and I think it’s marvellous that Beryl is being championed in this way.
“She was a terrific person and it is wonderful for Morley that she is being recognised.
“It is just a great shame that Beryl’s not here to see it herself and hear how much people thought of her.”
Keen Morley cyclist Phil Fryer, 54, who met Beryl in 1994 when he became Yorkshire Road Club Champion, said she was a humble person who never bragged about her achievements and was only interested in other people.
“She’d have been a national star if she was alive today,” he said.
“It was just unfortunate that she lived in a time when female athletes would get a postage stamp’s worth of coverage for their achievements whilst men got a double page spread.
“That was just the nature of the times really.
“But when she came to see me and give me advice on my own cycling she was only bothered about me rather than herself. It was like she was a neighbour, even though I’d never met her.”
Morley Literature Festival director Coun Bob Gettings thanked the organisers of the event.
“We had a unique opportunity to see how a production of this calibre is assembled and rehearsed,” he said.
“It was also a wonderful way to showcase all that is best about Morley as a community and to highlight the sporting achievements of a remarkable woman.”
Coun Gettings said Alison should be congratulated for arranging the evening and urged the people of Morley to go and see the play in full when it is staged at the Playhouse.
Beryl will be performed at the West Yorkshire Playhouse from June 30-July 19.
Tickets, costing £12, are available from the box office by going to www.wyp.org.uk or calling the box office on 0113 2137700.