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The President’s Address

In 1968 a small community hall in Wayside Avenue was demolished to make room for new housing and the Wayside Players (a small group of drama enthusiasts) lost their venue. Their enthusiasm lived on.

In September 1969 a meeting was held in the library at Woodlands School under the auspices of the Parent Teachers Association and the Woodlands Drama Group was born. There were about 15 of us: teachers, parents and a few friends who managed to infiltrate!

Our first play, “Isolation at Eyam”, was an all women’s play with nine acting parts. We had just nine willing ladies, almost half of whom had never acted before. Undaunted, we entered it in the Nidderdale Festival where we surprised ourselves by winning two awards. Facilities were limited at the school but we built flats, hired lighting and collected furniture and props, which we stored beneath a floor in the hall, a large, dark and sometimes damp area. One had to be tough to be a member of Woodlands Drama Group in those days!

We also began to attract a following and often our audiences filled the hall for the 3 nights of every play. We were soon able to give a little financial contribution to the school through the PTA.

We certainly had our share of drama, although not always on stage! It was in November 1977 (the time of electricity cuts) and the first night of “When We Are Married”. Shortly before the curtain went up, there was a total blackout. Panic stations! The play went on with a row of candles in jars and a few oil lamps! What would health and safety think of that today? The following night we borrowed a generator to light the stage but it made so much noise the actors had to shout to be heard.

In 1998, our association with the school became rather difficult. The hall was not always available for rehearsals and productions: perhaps our ambitions were outgrowing our facilities. We finally decided, not without some misgivings, to put our plays on at the Studio at Harrogate Theatre. Our time at Woodlands School was for the most part a happy one.

As a group, we have always supported Harrogate Theatre. We took part, with other amateur groups, in the very successful fund raising event, “Curtain Up” in 1997. Since 1998, we have continued to produce two plays each year, in June and October in the Studio. We have enjoyed excellent technical facilities and are grateful for the professional help we have received.

For many years we have competed in the All England Theatre Festival of One Act Plays winning many awards. In 2008 we reached the Quarter Finals.

In 2010 we opened our membership to juniors, with a production of “Our Day Out” in which several young people were involved. Naturally, over 42 years our membership has been constantly changing but we are fortunate to have in the Group a few long serving members. Over the years we have been happy to welcome many new and valuable members including our juniors. Woodlands Drama Group has always aspired to encourage a growing interest in amateur dramatics and we shall continue to work to raise our standards and meet new challenges with confidence.

Lilian Wilcocks

(President, Woodlands Drama Group)