History of Polegate Community Association Drama Group

 

In the early 1960s, due to the drive and initiative of a few local people, the Polegate Community Association was formed. Finally after 8 years of hard work the Community Centre was built in  1969. 

 

To ensure that all interests were catered for when the building was ready, the Association set up several sections. One of these was the Drama group, formed in 1966.

 

The aims of the Drama Group are to provide entertainment to the local area. It is expected to make a profit from its shows and fund raising  events, so as to contribute funds to help the running costs of the Centre, and to be self-financing.

 

When the group was formed, it consisted of a handful of members who put on sketches for local clubs, as it had no premises of its own.

 

In May 1967, with a few additional members, the group put on two one-act plays. This was followed by our first three-act play, a comedy called “Love’s a Luxury”. Two performances were held in the old St John’s Church Hall in Victoria Road. Due to the members’ efforts in selling the tickets, the play was a sell out for both performances, which were well received – and so we were on our way! True to the play’s title – “Love’s a Luxury” – three members of the group were pregnant – so new members were needed for the next production. Rehearsals got under way but unfortunately, we had to abandon the production.

 

At this point, several new members joined the group, some coming from the old PEGS – Polegate Entertaining Group. So to our second production, again at st John’s Hall, this time a thriller, “Murder Mistaken”.

 

By now the building of the Community Centre was about to start, so there was much to do to organise the group to meet the new challenge.

 

With only days to go before the opening of the Centre, the builders were still working, stage curtains and fittings were yet to be fixed. It was a hectic time but we were proud to be the first event in the new Centre with our production of “Breath of Spring” in May 1969.

 

The group continued to grow and we have put on a Spring and an Autumn play ever since. 

 

In 1971, we formed our Associate Members Group (now called Friends) and we have been fortunate to have their support through the years.

 

The next major step in the group’s development was in 1972 when we performed our first pantomime “Little Red Riding Hood”. This production involved over 40 members. Following its success, this has become an annual event, at one time putting on 11 shows to over 2000 people.

 

Come 1975, we embarked on our next venture. We put on our first Olde Time Music Hall as part of the Polegate Carnival week. This continued for many years. We also took the show to the Winter Gardens for over 900 people organised by the Eastbourne Lions. We entered floats at the Polegate Carnivals, and took them to the Eastbourne Carnival, winning 4 consecutive first prizes.

 

In 1987, we did a special Olde Time Music Hall at the Royal Hippodrome – a special event – for a special reason – in aid of a special charity, St Wilfrid’s Hospice.

 

In May 1982, a new stage, dressing rooms and storage area were built and again the Drama Group opened it with the comedy “Dry Rot”.

 

We started a Junior Section in 1984, which encouraged the very young to get involved in Drama. Sadly, this stopped in 1990.

 

In 1991 – 1995, we entered the Eastbourne One-Act Play Festival.

 

1992 saw us celebrating our 25th year with the play “Simple Spy Men” by John Chapman.

This was one of the several Whitehall farces. 

 

We held an Anniversary Dinner a the Lansdowne Hotel attended by 80 members and friends, with special guest, John Chapman.

 

Our 30th Anniversary in 1997 saw us attempt another huge challenge – 2 plays on consecutive weeks – “Spring and Port Wine” and the “Happiest Days of your life”. This involved a cast of 20 people and over 50 for the productions.

 

In 2003, the association built new storage areas next to the Main Hall. We now have a scenery, costume and props stores. Moving on to  2007, we celebrated our 40th Anniversary, again performing 2 plays on consecutive weeks - “Are you being Served?” and “The Darling Buds of May”. Another ambitious project for the group, which played to delighted audiences.

 

This was followed by our Anniversary  luncheon at the Hydro Hotel for over 80 past and present members and friends.

 

We meet twice weekly throughout the year and in addition to our 2 plays and Pantomime each year, we put on a summer Fund Raising show, which has been Murder Mystery evening in the last few years.

 

We also raise money for the group and the Community Centre with Coffee Mornings, Table Sales, BBQs, Cream Teas, Quizzes, etc.

 

It keeps us busy throughout the year. It takes a lot of effort and commitment for our, on average, 30-50 members but it’s a great team who enjoy the social life and performances. And we love every minute of it! Oh, yes, we do!!

 

Jim Dobell

President

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