A Brief History of Wycliffe Drama Group
On a cold November evening in Lutterworth in 1949 thirteen people met up with the drama adviser for Leicestershire to explore the possibility of forming a drama group in Lutterworth. This exploratory meeting met under the aegis of ‘Lutterworth and District Drama Group’ and such was the enthusiasm that those present decided that a group should be established with Wednesday being agreed as ‘group night’. It had been pointed out that a drama group was formed back in 1924 but was short-lived. So, the beginning of 1950 would see the dawn of a new drama group.
A membership fee of 5 shillings (121⁄2p) was agreed and one of the enthusiasts was charged to find a suitable play which would be staged in Spring 1950. The first play was ‘The Shining Hour’ and the first performance took place at the Grammar School on 13 April 1950 with reserved seats costing 2/6d. That first production was staged under the group name ‘Wiclif Drama Group’ but by the second production in October that year the group name had been modified to ‘Wycliffe Drama Group’. For the first five years of existence the group moved between St Mary’s Church Hall and the Grammar School for performing venues before making the Grammar School (now Lutterworth College) its permanent home. Some of our long-standing patrons and members will recall most of our performances taking place in the ‘small hall’ before transferring to the main stage for all productions in 1990.
The Festival of Britain was key in promoting amateur drama in Britain in the 1950s with both full-length and one-act play competitions proving popular. WDG entered a regional competition in 1954 based in Rugby and, much to the chagrin of its hosts, duly won the trophy. The group has never looked back since, consistently maintaining a high level of quality in performance.
Competition success has been achieved at regular intervals by WDG with the group winning trophies for best full-length production in the Leicestershire and Rutland as well as best pantomime. Needless to say, its actors and creative teams have also received individual awards along the way.
Talking of pantomime, WDG staged its first pantomime, ‘Aladdin’, in 1993 in response to popular demand and continues to stage its annual seasonal entertainment to sell-out audiences.
Two of WDG’s most ambitious and successful ventures have been its participation in 2009 and 2011 at the international Edinburgh Fringe Festival with ‘Our Country’s Good’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ respectively. Taking a large team of actors and crew on each occasion the Group attracted four-star reviews and high-acclaim in an environment judged against West-End professional standards.
WDG has also been instrumental in staging variety concerts in aid of international, national and local charities. These include ‘Grand Variety Performance’ (Mayor’s appeal), ‘Concert for Haiti’ (Earthquake appeal),’ Best of British’ (Cancer UK), ‘Sounds of Christmas' (Mayor’s appeal) and ‘Concert for Lutterworth’ (Lutterworth Medical Centre). On a related theme, in 2000 WDG teamed up with Lutterworth College and performing groups in the town to stage ‘A Time and Space Oddity’ which formed a major part of Lutterworth’s Millennium celebrations.
WDG also continues to be a major part of Lutterworth’s Christmas celebrations. Apart from the pantomime, it has staged its seasonal concert ‘Christmas Crackers’ almost every year since 2000 and has taken a carol-singing team to various residential homes in Lutterworth every year since 1987.
So, with 70 years and very nearly 200 shows behind us, WDG continues to bring quality entertainment to theatre-goers in Lutterworth. The group works hard to stage a wide variety of show, maintaining the trend set by the earliest members, whether this be modern drama, the classics, comedy, farce or pantomime. The current membership gives thanks to the foresight shown by the pioneering group of 13 of the early 1950s and hope they are looking down and smiling on the legacy they gave us.