1913 – 19 Early days – the St. Andrews Old Girls Dramatic Society
Although the Southport Dramatic Club was not actually founded until 1920, its immediate predecessor, the St. Andrews Old Girls Dramatic Society had their first production in 1913.
1920 – 37 Early days – The Southport Dramatic Club – searching for a home
Temporary venues for major productions included: the Opera House, the Pier Pavilion and the Garrick Theatre (a magnificent theatre and a listed building, now a Bingo emporium!). Also, for a short period, the Club took the lease of premises at Mornington Road. In 1935, negotiations between the Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society and the SDC resulted in the Club obtaining a long lease on a ‘yet to be built’ theatre (see a part of the original plans at the end of this article), and in 1937, the Little Theatre, Hoghton Street, became our permanent home.
1937 – 45 During ‘The Second World War’
No sooner had the Club acquired a theatre of its own than it lost most of its members to the Country’s service during the war. The SDC presented 18 plays between 1937 and 1939, and just 3 plays between 1940 and 1945. However, during the war years the theatre was sublet to the Sheffield Repertory Company.
1946 – 59 The post-war years
The SDC took control again at the Little Theatre for the 1946/47 Season and have run the theatre ever since. The first post-war years were full of activity. Regular sublets to other clubs and societies were established. In the early 1950’s, theatre in general was confronted by a new competitor… television. People stayed at home and our audience attendance dropped dramatically (no pun intended).
1960 – 69 Subscribers… Rapid growth… The L.T.G. … Pantomime… and a Bar…
By the early 1960s, the Club was putting on seven shows a Season, and the average audience attendance had improved to 70%. A concessionary Subscriber system was introduced to combat the effect of television, primarily. This was a time of rapid growth and development for the Southport Dramatic Club. We joined the Little Theatre Guild of Great Britain. Towards the end of this period, we presented our first pantomime and acquired our first Bar licence.
The 1970’s and 80’s – Continued success at a cost
Overall, the Club enjoyed continuing success. We also proved very sucessful at fund-raising, having to contend with a serious fire in 1970 and another even more catastrophic fire in 1988. We were determined to update the theatre. In the 1979/80 Season, the Bar was resited to a large, new area beneath, and with access to, the Foyer. It was now available to audiences as well as members.
The 1990’s to 2000 – More productions, larger audiences
Our Seasons are now comprised of 8 productions with 2 or sometimes 3 extra shows each year, including, from the early 80’s, a regular ‘Out-of-Season’ production in the Bar. During the 1998/99 and 1999/00 Seasons, we have achieved audience attendance figures in excess of 90% of capacity. This success is very gratifying, but we are fully aware that it needs to continue if the Club is to present shows at our Little Theatre in the future. In 1999 the Club celebrated its outright purchase of the theatre, at the end of a long and very successful stint of fund raising.
2001 and 2002 – The provision of a lift and access for the disabled together with a newly refurbished Bar and Foyer
By 21st September 2001, the Club’s members became the proud owners of a theatre with access for the disabled including toilets and a lift, and with refurbished corridors, offices, storerooms, Box Office and Bar. By the following Season the Foyer had been refurbished…
Apart from the considerable relief the lift affords to those who find it a struggle to climb our (magnificent) main staircase, it means that we conform to new regulations related to ‘access’ (not the least, for wheelchair users).
Providing the extra space needed for a lift, from the Box Office level to both the upper Crush Hall on the first floor and the Clubroom on the second floor, and the provision of a disabled toilet, involved major internal structural alterations. In short, apart from the lift itself, it meant the provision (among many other changes) of a new corridor, a new Bar and Bar Lounge, a new Box Office, storerooms, a members’ office and a new general office.
The considerable cost has been met largely through ‘fund raising’ activities. As has been explained earlier the SDC is no stranger to such activities, and these, combined with the leadership, resourcefulness and expertise of two ex-chairmen of the Club, have been extremely successful.
The alterations now appear in the updated ‘Tour’ pages. You may like to see the plans…
Throughout the history of the SDC, its members have reacted to crises with creative and innovative ideas and put these into effect quickly and efficiently with enormous reserves of energy and stamina. Whatever the 21st Century brings you can be sure that we shall continue to strive to entertain the people of Southport and Sefton and surrounding areas as we have done so successfully in the past.