FHODS – History of Society
In 1902, the Folkestone Dramatic & Music Club was formed, and they put on their productions at the Woodward Institute. Folkestone Operatic Society started in 1913, with a production of “Les Cloches de Cornville” at the Pleasure Gardens Theatre.
This Society closed at the start of World War 1, but was re-formed after the end of W.W.I, and presented plays up until the start of the Second World War in 1939.
After the war, in 1946, the Folkestone Operatic Society re-formed and in 1947, Hythe was added to its name. Operatic productions continued at the Pleasure Gardens Theatre, with dramatic productions at the Leas Pavilion Theatre, the Town Hall, and the Chichester Hall in Sandgate. In 1952, the Society arranged to rent part of the Queen’s Hotel annexe in Church Street, and so ‘ Ham Yard’ was born- a little theatre seating 57 on the ground floor of the building, with a green room on the first floor and a dressing room in the basement. 114 productions were put on during the twelve years the Society was at Ham Yard. Then, in 1965, the Society leased a former church in Sandgate, and this building was turned into the present Little Theatre: the freehold was purchased by the Society in 1973.
In 1963, the Pleasure Gardens Theatre had been closed and later pulled down, and so the Society had to find a suitable venue for Operatic productions. Some were staged at the Town Hall, some at the Odeon Cinema, and some at the Ritz Cinema at Hythe. When, in 1975, the Society started to present an annual pantomime, the Leas Pavilion Theatre was used, but, when this was closed in 1985, we moved along the Leas to the Leas Cliff Hall, where we presented pantomimes and other musicals untill 2007.
The Society bought another property in Sandgate in 1993, to be used as a scenery store, workshop, and for some rehearsals, but, in 2001, these premises were sold in order to finance the purchase of the Garrison Church at Shorncliffe, for which offers by sealed bid were being invited. FHODS was the lucky bidder, and so, in 2001, we became the proud owners of a huge church, the largest garrison church in the United Kingdom. We named it the Tower Theatre, and work has been going on since then to adapt the premises, though this will, of course, take some years to complete. Therefore, we are one of the comparatively few Societies in the U.K to have its own theatre, which has been the case since 1952.
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