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Southport Dramatic Club to host the Little Theatre Guild National Conference

PUBLISHED: 12:44 16 April 2012 | UPDATED: 21:16 20 February 2013

Southport Dramatic Club to host the Little Theatre Guild National Conference

Southport Dramatic Club to host the Little Theatre Guild National Conference

The Southport Dramatic Club will play host to the National Conference of The Little Theatre Guild. Words by Ron Ellis

On May 18th, Southport Dramatic Club is hosting the National Conference of The Little Theatre Guild.

Back in the 1930, as more and more independently controlled amateur theatre companies began to open their own theatres, the idea was first suggested that a national body might be formed to formulate standards and hold regular meetings to exchange experiences and seek advice on problems.

Finally, in May 1946, nine theatres came together to establish the Guild and since then the organisation has grown apace until today it boasts 104 members in all parts of the U.K. and 2 overseas.

The member theatres must present a regular performance of plays, including musicals, and are non-commercial in character, often as charities. They provide a focus in their community and often the only provider of live entertainment in many rural areas. They range in size from 60-seater to 500 seater theatres presenrting as few as 3 or as many as 15 shows in a year.

The Guild's aim is to promote amateur theatre at all levels and encourage its members to provide training and promote both Youth Theatre and new writing.

The SDC first joined in1965 and this is the fourth time they have been privileged to hold the National Conference at their Little Theatre home in Southports Hoghton Street.

Southports Margaret Mann is currently the North Regional Secretary of the Guild and a former Chairman of both the Little Theatre Guild and the SDC. Margaret and husband, Ray, have been with the SDC since the early 1960s and are still acting and directing five decades later, having also occupied nearly every posittion in the company at one time or another..

A number of people well known in the theatrical world are expected to attend the Conference including Guild President, Sir Ian McKellen, and the President of the SDC, internationally famed director Ian Judge, who started his illustrious career with the company.

The Conference runs from the Friday evening to the Sunday lunchtime and features a number of workshops covering various aspects of theatre including Play Writing, Youth Theatre, Social Media Networking and Acting and Directing.

Amongst the speakers are Kevin Spence, Chairman-Elect of the L.T.G; Nick Lane, Literacy Manager from the Hull Truck Company and the esteemed director/playwright, Stephen Hughes-Alty, who runs his own Spark of Creation consultancy company.

On Friday evening, after supper in the theatre foyer, actors will perform new and original monologues in the bar and the SDC Youth Group will provide entertainment on the Saturday afternoon.

On the last evening of the Conference, delegates will be treated to a performance of the SDCs last production of the season, The Dangers of Tobacco written by their own Alistair Hewitt who is currently Vice-Chairman of the Society and is to be next years Chairman.

The event coincides with the 75th anniversary of the SDCs occupation of the 396 seat Little Theatre which was built for them by the Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society behind their premises in Hoghton Street.

Prior to this, they had performed in the Opera House, part of the old Winter Gardens complex, the Pier Pavilion and Lord Streets Garrick Theatre after being formed from the St. Andrews Old Girls Dramatic Society in 1920.

In 1999, when the Liverpool Victoria left town, they managed to buy the theatre for the price of 103.750, so taking control of their own destiny.

Members are noted for their longevity. Joan Pettitt has been with the Society for 46 years. Her husband, Freddie, was a former Chairman and Treasurer and Joan still acts as prompt and front of house. She also serves on five committees, travels to Canada twice a year to visit her daughters family and drives a car in a manner reminiscent of Lewis Hamilton. Not bad going at 91. But Vera Burns, whose husband Ken was also Chairman, is the longest serving member, beating Joan by eight months.

Followers of Coronation Street will be interested to know that recently murdered bad-boy, Frank Foster, was played by a former SDC member Andrew Lancel. He was following in the footsteps of film star Miranda Richardson, who also made her debut on the Little Theatre stage. Other former members now in the professional theatre include Sally Bankes, who is better known as Miss Mulberry on BBC TVs Cee Beebies and Sam Roukin who appeared recently on television in DCI Banks and played a snatcher in the 2010 film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

The SDC has a thriving Youth Theatre which has produced some excellent shows over the years, this seasons offering being Willy Russells Our Day Out featuring a large cast of youngsters..

Who knows what stars of the future are currently treading the boards at Southport's Little Theatre.

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