Learn about our history and how we got to where we are now.
So many society histories amount to a list of productions. Important as these are, with all due respect, perhaps some history of the formation might prove just as interesting.
In 1918 St Hilda’s, Heaton Park, (Heaton Park is a district of Prestwich) Glee Club -formed earlier in the 20th Century- rejoiced for the ending of the Great War and a healthy influx of men returning from the trenches of the Western Front. (The society is also proud to be one of the few who continued to entertain throughout World War II with all female casts.)
There is strong evidence that there certainly also existed in Prestwich a Dramatic Society – Prestwich Amateur Dramatic Society (PADS)- in November 1887 and a programme is held by PADOS for the performance of a play – ‘Jessy Vere’ or ‘The Return of the Wanderer’ (a domestic drama by C. H. Hazlewood) presented at Prestwich Liberal Club. This Club is immediately in front of the former Chester Street Wesleyan Church Hall and the 1919 venue of the first full length Operetta – ‘Trial by Jury’ presented by the society. Whilst research continues, there is strong belief that this 1887 Society (PADS) probably amalgamated with ‘The Glee Club’ to create PADOS (ie: ‘Singers’ and ‘Dramatic Actors’) as it is known today.
The current PADOS archivist has been researching the history, having to rely strongly on local press archives and appeals to public and members for any form of memorabilia. This has proved to be successful to a degree, but still more information is needed. Fortunately when this exercise became more serious (Mid 1960s) interviews were conducted with the few founding members still around at the time and other long standing members. Most confirmed that what had been speculated above was most probably correct. Names which featured in the PADS programme were known to be early members of PADOS.
Type fonts also matched early PADOS usage. Very much a custodian of old programmes was Sheila Smith, whose father had been a founding member. Another ‘Treasure Chest’ of memories was Elsie Lees Doyle who trained many a member for their audition pieces. These and other much loved but sadly departed former members provided much of the records, photographs, newspaper reviews, and anecdotes now held prior to the 1950s including a comprehensive list of productions presented since the foundation in 1918 and by the end of 2017 these amount to 355 productions.
Over the past 100 years the society has performed at many venues including local church halls, schools, cinemas, The Houldsworth Hall (Deansgate, Manchester) , The Dancehouse Theatre, The Police College and civic halls. There was a wonderful period when both plays and musicals were staged at The Victoria Theatre, Salford over a period of 13 Years. This glorious theatre now stands empty for many years waiting for someone to blow some magic dust and bring life to it again.
A major step for the society in 1976 was to take a lease on the former Prestwich Library for use as a rehearsal headquarters, social facilities and a workshop; it became PADOS HOUSE. In 1991 vandals broke into this venue and set fire to it. Despite the efforts of the Fire Brigade, the place was seriously damaged by fire and water. Members rallied to the cause and within six months transformed the place to what we know today as PADOS Studio Theatre, seating an audience of 64 in tiered theatre seating with week long productions. Pantomimes last a little longer. The society was thankful to all those many members who contributed to this work and not least our neighbouring thespians at Whitefield Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society who arranged and provided a celebratory dinner raising much needed funds towards the restoration.
The society now boasts the Adult Section, regularly presenting two or three plays per season, a major musical (staged at Bury Met Theatre), a Junior Section (7 – 11 Yrs), and a Youth Section (11 to 21 Yrs). All sections have faced the challenge of emulating West End hit shows and plays and the even more adventurous new wave theatre.
The last AGM saw a General Committee made up by many who started in the Youth Group and those of us who faced the original challenge of acquiring our own venue feel secure that the society is in safe hands.
2018 will see the celebration of the official founding of the Society with a celebration banquet and dance at Middleton Masonic Club on 5th May. The committee welcomes interest from former members and any wishing to support the event. It would be nice to think that our founders will be remembered in one of the toasts on the evening. But the writer just wonders ‘could it be 131 Years ????’ – Just a thought of that production of ‘Jessy Vere’.
Former General Secretary, Chairman and President
Its been officially more than one hundred years of performances for PADOS, but history also shows that we may have had earlier beginnings.
Evidence shows that the forerunners of Prestwich Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society (PADOS) were around as far back as 1885. But in the interests of fair play - or musical - we have taking our ‘birth’ from 1918 when two local churches, St Hilda’s in Heaton Park and St Margaret’s, in Prestwich, who had previously called themselves the Heaton Park Glee Club, changed their name to PADOS.
Life member of PADOS and its archivist Fred Plant said: "We have a programme of a concert organised by the Prestwich Amateur Dramatic Society in 1885 and we’re pretty certain they were the precursors of PADOS. "I’m currently researching the actual dates but, in the meantime, we decided to take our anniversary as 100 years."
PADOS’ first production was in 1919, a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury (image of cast below), with one of the founding members and performers being Evelyn Hinks (Background Image) the mother of the late Sheila Smith, awarded a diamond medal at the anniversary dinner dance. We really are a local, little Theatre Company that is all about family and great performances.