History of the Society

Episode 1: The Beginning, The Little Theatre, and the End (almost) 1948-77

Faringdon-Corn-ExchangeWay back in 1948, Bill Reeves ran an evening class which proved popular and developed into ‘Play Reading’ sessions. Bill and Gilbert Gregson, joined by others such as Bill Carter and George Young, gradually formed the Faringdon District Dramatic Society (FDDS)”.

Rehearsals were held in the Friends Meeting House opposite the Duke of Wellington in the Lechlade Road. Sets were built in garages and back gardens and the productions were staged in the Faringdon Corn Exchange (photo). The very first play “The Ghost Train” was presented in the Corn Exchange in April 1949.

Little Theatre Royal Marine CampIn 1952 the Society was able to rent an old Nissan hut on the old Royal Marines Camp in Butts Road (now Butts Road, Marines Drive and Town End Road) and begun its conversion into a theatre. 

The hut had been built by the Royal Marine Engineers during WWll and had been used as a cinema and afterwards as a agricultural store shed. The members did all the conversion themselves – repairing the roof, re-wiring, making theatre curtains etc. The seats were bought for 3/- each from the American Base at Brize Norton. At this time the society was affiliated to the Swindon & District Amateur Theatre Guild who sent representatives to help with the initial renovations.

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After a lot of hard work by members The Little Theatre was official opened by Lord Faringdon in December 1953 with the production of Emlyn Williams’ “The Late Christopher Bean“. In 1954 the name of the society was shortened to the “Faringdon Dramatic Society (FDS)”.

During the twenty years at the Little Theatre, the Society staged 53 plays and this, of course, involved a considerable number of performers. Among them there appeared in 1970 and ’71, an unknown amateur actress called Pam Ayres!

In 1972 the redevelopment of the old Marines Camp into the present housing estate was begun. The Little Theatre was lost, and the Society had to find alternative accommodation. There then followed a long period of virtual inactivity but during this time a few productions were staged at Buckland Village Hall and a pageant presented in Faringdon Church.

Faringdon was transferred from Berkshire to Oxfordshire in 1974 and at some point changed their affiliation to the Oxfordshire Drama Network (ODN) and the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA).

See press articles:

Building Their Own Theatre – 1952 (pdf)

A Last Lament 1972 (pdf)

Episode 2: The Faringdon Community Theatre 1978-94

Pump HouseIn 1978 we became corporate members of Faringdon Community Association and were able to make good use of the fine new Faringdon Community Theatre and Community Centre that was the old Pump House (photo).

The name of the society was changed for a third time to the Faringdon Community Dramatic Society (FCDS). Our first production there in October was “Post Horn Gallop“.

We started doing pantomime in 1987 with “Sleeping Beauty” and have since produced one every year. A number of our plays and pantomimes have since received awards from the Oxfordshire Drama Network.

See press articles:

George Young’s Story – 1993 (pdf)

Tim Reeves – 50 Years of Dramatic Events – 1998 (pdf)

Episode 3: 1995 – Independence, Forward and Beyond

Following the pantomime in 1995 relations with the management of the community centre finally broke down such that we became financially independent but homeless again.

For a more detailed account see some articles from the local press:

Our break from the Faringdon Community Centre (pdf)

The name of the society was shortened back again to the “Faringdon Dramatic Society (FDS)”. Our next production was “Old Tyme Music Hall” or “The Good Old Days”, which was performed in the Faringdon Corn Exchange. Future productions then alternated between the Corn Exchange, the Secondary School, the Junior School, and occasionally back at the Community Theatre for a pantomime, which eventually shut down in 1999.

buscot-park-theatreSince 2004, with the production of “Dancing at Lughnasa“, we have taken up a more permanent arrangement with Faringdon Junior School and the occasional special performances at the Sudbury House Hotel and Buscot Park Theatre (photo). We have also had an ongoing exchange partnership¬† with the Garrison Little Theatre in Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada.

Please download our Microsoft PowerPoint PowerPoint Presentation (7MB), which gives an overall view of the Society. It was shown to the public in the Corn Exchange in late 2018.