A BRIDGWATER couple will have a royal day out in recognition of their great work over the past 20 years establishing and running a popular Youth Theatre Group.

Alan King and his wife Val have been running the ACTS group for two decades and thousands of Bridgwater youngsters have performed in their productions.

The pair have been invited to a Buckingham Palace Garden Party on Thursday, June 1 having been nominated by local hairdresser Kenny Baker.

ACTS has up to 120 kids on its books at any one time, split into two sections - the juniors comprising of 8-13 year-olds and the seniors with 13 to 18 year-olds.

Mr King said: "I am looking forward to it – there will be thousands of people there but they say the royals mingle, plus not everybody gets an invite to go through the grounds of Buckingham Palace.

"My wife has told me not to crack any of my jokes or I’ll get kicked out! Still we don’t do it for people to kiss our feet, we do it to give young people opportunities. I am 73 now but still enjoying it."

Mr King explained he had been a music teacher in the area, and set up a theatre group at St John and St Francis School which got the ball rolling.

"Soon other schools were asking to set up something similar and that is how ACTS came about," he said.

"We had about 20 kids participate in our first show, and following the success of that our members doubled. We were based at Bridgwater College before moving on to what was then East Bridgwater Community School until finally heading to Hamp Academy where we have been based for the last decade."

Over the years ACTS has put on renditions of dozens of famous productions including Cats, Oliver, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon and Billy Elliot.

A number of youngsters have gone on to perform on stage in London or with touring shows, but Alan says performing helps in all sorts of ways.

"We had one young chap who wants to work with animals – he went for an interview at Tropiquaria in West Somerset where he had to talk to a party of youngsters and parents about the animals and his stage training helped him out because he was used to talking to an audience," Mr King said.

"We put up no barriers, anyone is welcome to join. We have people in wheelchairs, others with learning difficulties such as dyslexia or people who have hearing problems but everyone takes part."

ACTS has just put on a rocking production of Rock of Ages at Bridgwater Town Hall this past week.