Blackburn Drama Club

Blackburn Drama club was founded in 1944 and is now in its 64th season.

In January 1944, at a time when war had brought stagnation to Blackburn's amateur dramatic activity, a group of ten enthusiasts decided it was time to switch on the spotlights again. These Founder Members, led by Bill Martin and Alice Stirrup, included George Gray, Eve Barnes, Molly Toppins and Alice Leaver.

After only three weeks of their first meeting the Drama Club made its debut with a five-strong cast at the YMCA Hall in a production of "Gaslight." The YMCA Hall became the home of the club for many years, although the Community Theatre in Troy Street was also a venue for several successful productions.

In 1958, members realised that redevelopment would make them homeless, and began looking for premises of their own, resulting in the purchase of 163, Preston New Road in 1962 at a cost of £900.

In November 1964 fire destroyed the stage, lighting equipment and scenery only three weeks before the staging of "Trespass." Dr. Rose, the principal of the Technical College, offered the club the use of the College Theatre and this became the main venue for the Drama Club putting on over 140 plays there until 2002.

In May 1993, on the eve of Blackburn Drama Club's 50th Anniversary, an arsonist set fire to the clubhouse at Preston New Road causing £10,000 worth of damage. Fire fighters stopped the fire from spreading, but not before hundreds of different costumes were lost, some of them dating back to the 1880s. The cost of restoring the headquarters was too expensive and in February 1994 the club moved to the Polish Club on Shear Bank Road.

Blackburn Drama Club marked its 50th anniversary with a celebration dinner at the Dunkenhalgh Hotel on the 19th February 1994. Five guest speakers, Tom Kinder, Bill Shaw, David Proctor, Isobel Barratt and Steven Derbyshire recounted anecdotes spanning the club's fifty years.

Blackburn College Theatre was refurbished in 1994 with new tiered seating, high tech lighting and a sound system.

In 1998 the club heard that the Polish Club was being put up for sale and once again it was time to look for a new home. Scenery and props were moved to the back of Acme Hire's, King Street, premises, and in 2000 a room was rented at The District and Union Club for rehearsals. This remained the club's temporary home until 2001 when the club purchased part of the upper floor at the Capita Performing Arts Centre, Aquduct Road, Ewood, with the profit it made from selling the clubhouse on Preston New Road.

Four productions were successfully performed at The Library Theatre in Darwen until the opening of the new Thwaites Theatre. The new theatre was finally opened in November 2002 and the first Drama Club production to be presented at The Thwaites Empire Theatre was "Bouncers", followed by "Brassed Off",which featured the Haslingdon and Helmshore Brass Band. This production brought in audiences of a thousand, a figure unheard of since the Sixties!

The Drama Club hope they may continue to have many successful years at The Thwaites Empire Theatre.