As the news of Nelson's great victory at Trafalgar reached England, the citizens of Henley-on-Thames were also celebrating - close by the town's own feted 'haunted stream' - the opening of their New Theatre, now known and loved as The Kenton Theatre. Since that time, roguish Victorian actor-managers, the great Beerbohm Tree, down-at-heel pre-war repertory companies and glittering celebrities of the present day have all stepped out on the Kenton's well-trod boards. But most important of all have been the generations of local unpaid actors, singers, box-office and bar staff, 'techies', 'sparks', scene-painters and countless enthusiasts who have kept The Kenton Theatre an essential living and breathing part of its community. No-one with a love of theatre, and especially amateur theatre, can fail to be intrigued and fascinated by the Kenton's long and enthralling story. A dedicated amateur Thespian himself, Bill Port has a long association with the Kenton and is part of that army of unsung heroes which helps to run and manage it. He has generously donated part of the royalties from sales of The Well-Trod Stage to support the Theatre.
Bill Port was born in Lanark in 1931 where he made his stage debut at the age of five. He made regular appearances in the Gilbert and Sullivan Operas and Shakespeare plays staged by Dalziel High School in Motherwell where he was a pupil. After growing up in the usual way he moved to London in 1951 and began a career in the laundry industry, eventually taking control of all the laundries owned by British Rail. He renewed his amateur acting career when, with his wife Pat and their two children, he moved to Peppard, near Henley-on-Thames. Bill and Pat joined the Chiltern Edge Players, later becoming members of the Henley Players and the Henley Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society which performed at The Kenton Theatre. First Pat, then Bill, joined the management society of the Theatre and were subsequently elected to the Board of Directors. With his long involvement, Bill came to realise the huge significance of the many individuals who, throughout the Theatre's life and right into the present, had worked so hard - generally with little acknowledgement - to maintain the presence of this precious facility at the heart of Henley. The bi-centenary of The Kenton theatre seemed to Bill an appropriate moment to put right this omission and to record the ups and downs of England's fourth oldest theatre.