A flagship event in British amateur dramatics is to be hosted in the Isle of Man in July.
The National Drama Festivals Association’s (NDFA) 41st British All-Winners Festival of Plays is to be held at the Gaiety Theatre from Sunday 20th to Saturday 26th July.
The event, last hosted by the island in 2008, will bring together invited teams from NDFA member drama groups in Britain, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
The performances will be judged by Jan Palmer Sayer of GoDA (Guild of Drama Adjudicators), director of the Manx Passion promenade production that was staged at sites across the Island during Holy Week.
The selection process for the festival was made on June 14th and 15th by the council of the NDFA of which Michael Lees is a member representing the Manx Amateur Drama Federation (MADF). He is also Island of Culture 2014 event director.
Mr Lees explained: ‘As the Isle of Man is host nation for this year’s festival, MADF is the organising body and I am the coordinator.
‘The festival is the culmination of regional competitions held throughout the year. What sets the NDFA festival apart from other similar events is that it’s professionally adjudicated – and in this we’re delighted to be welcoming back Jan Palmer Sayer after her epic production of the Manx Passion. Additionally, with the NDFA festival, there are three categories – full-length and one-act plays and a youth section, as well as an awards ceremony on the final evening – so it offers a fantastic breadth of theatrical experiences for the audiences.’
Winning a regional competition does not, however, guarantee an automatic entrée into the festival as Mr Lees explained.
‘There’s a rigorous selection process we apply. NDFA council members read every play and to make sure standards remain high, we only consider productions awarded 80 or more marks out of a possible 100. And our final decision is based not only on marks awarded but also on the judges’ remarks. In other words, we look at the productions as a whole, not just at the performers’ acting skills.’
The festival is set to attract around 300 visitors, largely performers and officials. ‘This not only benefits the Manx economy but also makes for a great festival atmosphere as the majority of visitors stay for the whole week to enjoy the plays staged in one of Britain’s finest Victorian theatres, as well as the tours of the Island, theatre workshops and talks we arrange for them. This year we’re delighted that composer Stuart Brayson, who co-wrote the West End show From Here to Eternity with Sir Tim Rice, will be in conversation at the Empress Hotel with Tony Gibbs chief executive of NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association), sharing experiences and ideas to attract theatre audiences. Stuart will also be performing acoustic versions from the show.
‘Interestingly, at a time when amateur drama festivals are on the decline in England, MADF’s Easter Festival of Plays at the Gaiety Theatre and the all-winners’ festival are, historically, oversubscribed.
‘We’re always keen to encourage drama group teams to visit the Island so we provide substantial travel allowances and are very grateful to the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company for their generous sponsorship, to the Isle of Man Arts Council, and to the Empress Hotel, which serves as festival HQ, for their support.’
The NDFA is keen that all generations and abilities have the opportunity to take part in amateur dramatics. ‘It was for this reason that in 2008 NDFA introduced a section in the finals devoted to those with learning difficulties. We’re enormously proud that the section made its début here in the Isle of Man that same year and that it prompted the formation of the Manx Gateway drama group. And, in another move to promote amateur drama, the MADF set up a fund in 2008 to help some of the less financially resilient NDFA regional member groups stage future all-winners’ events.
‘The British All-Winners Festival of Plays, though, isn’t just about sitting in a theatre and watching a play. After every performance the adjudicator comes on stage to talk to the audience and goes into some detail about the play and the author’s aims, to heighten the playgoers’ enjoyment.
‘Simply put the aim of the festival is to provide as broad and inclusive a theatrical experience as possible.’
Ahead of the awards presentation on Saturday July 26th members of the Manx Amateur Drama Federation will present a reading of the George Taylor Memorial Award Delivered, by Jane Fookes.
Tickets for the British All-Winners Festival of Plays are sale now at the Welcome Centre and the Gaiety Theatre box office, villagaiety.com.
Performances are at 7.30pm every evening with the exception of Sunday July 20th when the performance will begin at 7pm.
- Brooklands College, Surrey
- Caramba Theatre Company, Warwickshire
- Clavering Players, Cambridgeshire
- Legion Players, Isle of Man
- Lighthorne Drama Group, Warwickshire
- Mole Valley Scriptwriters Group, Surrey
- Offshoots, Anglesey
- Runnymede Drama Group, Surrey
- Semi-Circle, Basel, Switzerland (runners-up)
- Stage One Drama, Isle of Man
- S.W.A.T.S, Guernsey
- Wakefield Little Theatre, Yorkshire
- White Cobra Productions, Northampton
- Woodhouse Players, Essex
To reserve a free place for Stuart Brayson and Tony Gibb’s talk email email@example.com