The New Mills Operatic and Dramatic Society was formed in 1922 and put on shows regularly each year, mostly musicals, such as The Gondoliers, Iolanthe, and The Yeoman of the Guard. The members worked extremely hard to produce these shows which were always of a high standard. The Society produced two shows a year until the outbreak of the Second World War, which brought all this to an end.
“Live” shows returned to the stage in 1948 when the “Amateurs” obtained a temporary licence to perform. Plays were produced to begin with as finances would not support as full scale musical. However, two plays per year were staged successfully and were usually in a light-hearted vein. At long last, after a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication by the electricians and members of the Society, a full scale musical was performed – No No Nanette in November 1952. The Operatics were back!
No live shows were seen on stage other than the Society shows except for the odd band concert or male voice choir, but as each year came round, so there were staged two plays and one musical. This continued with huge success until Sailor Beware in 1959 when disaster struck! On March 21st 1959, the Sheffield Theatre Cinema Company closed the doors of the Art Theatre and left the Operatics homeless.
From now onwards, the story of the Art Theatre is also the story of the Amateurs, and although they have always been closely connected, the remainder of this story proves the dedication of a group of people with one aim. This dedication has never disappeared.
A Special General Meeting was held on April 7th 1959 to explore the possibilities of leasing or even buying the theatre, which remained closed all summer.
On September 26th 1959 the Art Theatre re-opened. The Society had taken a two year tenancy, worked solidly seven days a week for ten weeks, then opened a spick and span theatre once again to entertain. The main problem, as always, was finance but thanks to the regular hard workers and individual fund raising efforts, in April 1961 the Art Theatre was leased for a further two years.
Fund raising schemes were launched, but the job of running a theatre almost became too much, and a unanimous decision was taken to end the lease on June 24th 1964. However, true to fighting form, the Society finally, and after much discussion, decided to “Hang on” a little longer and, as musicals were becoming more remunerative, two musicals per year became the policy.
In 1966 the memorable decision to buy the Art Theatre was taken and the “Buy a Brick” scheme was launched. Buy a brick for £1.00, and the bricks at the front of the Theatre were painted out to
show the progress. By the end of the last night of the November show Perchance to Dream, the target of £1000.00 was short by £20.00.
The President made a speech from the stage and as he was speaking, members of the audience called out “here’s a pound”, “here’s another”, the atmosphere was electric and when the President announced “we’ve done it” the place erupted.