Lighthorne drama festival which is one of the smallest in the country is set to bring one of the UK’s biggest festivals to the area

It will feature talent from across the country, joining together in a seven-day celebration of amateur theatre after a sixteen-month period in which UK theatrical productions all but ground to a halt

Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 3:49 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 4:10 pm
Paul Muldoon (left) as Albert Steptoe and Tim Guest as Harold Steptoe from the Stratford-based Caramba Theatre Company. The former Lighthorne Festival Winners will be performing an episode of the TV Classic Steptoe And Son at the week-long National Drama Festival Associations British All-Winners Festival in Coventry. Photo supplied

The Lighthorne Festival - one of the smallest in the country - brings one of the UK’s biggest festivals to the area this week.

The 'very best in UK ' amateur drama will be on stage as, for the first time ever, the National Drama Festivals Association’s British All-Winners Festival heads to Coventry in its City of Culture Year,

Although the event, between Sunday July 18 and Saturday July 24, spans the period in which the Government has promised to review Covid guidelines and regulations, the decision has been made that the whole festival, in the spacious 700-seat Albany Theatre, will be run as a distanced event.

Former Warwick University lecturer, Professor Anne-marie Greene will be performing on the opening night of the Festival and leading discussions on Inclusion and Diversity in UK Amateur Theatre on its closing Saturday. Photo supplied

It will feature talent from across the country, joining together in a seven-day celebration of amateur theatre after a sixteen-month period in which UK theatrical productions all but ground to a halt.

The team behind the Lighthorne event say the upcoming festival in Coventry is a result of the successful launch of the Lighthorne Festival of One-Act Plays eight years ago.

Held cafe-style in the intimate setting of Lighthorne Village Hall, it rapidly became a nationally-recognised event. As a result, a Lighthorne representative was invited to sit on the NDFA National Council.

Lighthorne Festival Chair Rod Chaytor said: ”Once there, it soon became apparent that, in nearly 50 years, the All-Winners had never been held in Coventry or Warwickshire.

Alec Brown, former chair of Priory Theatre in Kenilworth and member of the NDFA Coventry 2021 Delivery Committee. Photo supplied

“Our Festival’s intimate atmosphere is one of the reasons for its success, but also why it could never host a national finals.

“Visiting teams love the crowded cafe-style village hall auditorium, the challenge of the tiny stage and the fact that they change in the former post office backstage - but it doesn’t meet the requirements of a national event.

"On the other hand, Coventry’s Albany Theatre has a huge auditorium seating 700 - ten times Lighthorne’s capacity when in cafe format - plus a big, raked stage and six fully-equipped dressing rooms.

“The sub-committee which has delivered the Coventry Festival is made up overwhelmingly of members of the Lighthorne Festival family from Warwickshire and beyond and we very much hope to replicate, at the Albany, Lighthorne’s signature friendly and welcoming atmosphere.”

Coventry’s West End Musicals star, Dave Willetts, who will present the prizes. Photo supplied

Stewart Mison, chair of the National Drama Festivals Association said: “The All-Winners has never been to Coventry or Warwickshire, and has not been seen in the Midlands in living memory, because there was no interested local Festival here to organise it. Lighthorne stepped up and Coventry 2021 is the direct result."

Coventry’s Criterion Theatre will open the festival on the Sunday July 18, with a performance of “Queers - The Monologues”, by various writers but curated by Mark Gatiss, co-creator of the “Sherlock” tv series and who starred in it as older brother Mycroft Holmes.

Also on the bill are Stratford-based Caramba who will perform an episode of the classic 70’s “Steptoe and Son” tv show later in the week.

The festival will be adjudicated by Paul Fowler, a former chair of the Guild of Drama Adjudicators who, on the closing Saturday night, will announce the winners in the three categories of Youth, One-Act and Full-Length plays.

The prizes will be presented by Coventry’s West End legend, Dave Willetts, whose career began on the Priory’s Kenilworth stage.

Former Priory chair Alec Brown, who sits on the NDFA Coventry Sub-Committee, said: “As someone involved in amateur theatre in Warwickshire for over 30 years, I am delighted that the All-Winners is being held locally this year.

“It’s the pinnacle of the festival season which, over the last 18 months has, like so many other areas, been badly hit.

“But the 'show now goes on' with the best the UK has to offer performing at the Albany.

“If you have missed amateur theatre, then you simply cannot miss the All-Winners Finals.”

Tickets are priced at £12 (£11 concessions) are available from the Albany Box Office at the closing Saturday, a one-day conference on diversity and inclusion in UK amateur theatre will take place in the Albany Studio, also in distanced format, with discussions led by, among others, Professor Anne-marie Greene, artistic director of the Criterion Theatre in Coventry; Penny Amis, chair of the Side By Side Theatre Company in Leamington and Ian Wainwright, participation producer of the Stratford-based Royal Shakespeare Company.

Tickets for the Conference cost £35 pp including lunch, are available from NDFA President Derek Palmer on [email protected] or 07860 573896.