Not long after Echo Irving arrived in Wrington she was approached by the Rector, Derek Hooper, to consider the possibility of putting on an amateur drama production. Echo had been involved with drama since her childhood and she organised a number of productions in the church itself using a stage designed and built to fit around the pulpit.
These were well received by those who saw them and Derek then suggested that what the village needed was for someone to write a pantomime. Echo volunteered, despite not having written one before, plus there was no money available.
So borrowing £50 from the church, advertising in the Journal for clothes and curtains to make costumes and having some lovely scenery painted by Majorie Kinsman, the Drama Club's first show, Dick Whittington Sub Mendip, was played to sell- out audiences in January 1981.
Produced by Echo with assistance from Enid Ford it was a real village bouncy panto with lots of local references. Michael Clark played the Dame, his son Chris a gormless scheming yokel and Derek Hooper was King Rat, drawing hearty boos from his respectful parishioners.
The success led to a public meeting on 5 March 1981 to discuss the formation of a village drama group and the Club was then up and running and its next performance at the end of July 1981 was a Royal Wedding Celebration Music Hall chaired by Norman Jackson and which also included a young Alan Milne singing renditions of Wurzels’ songs.
Alan is one of the Club’s real success stories and after joining the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in 1996 has gone on to bigger and better things. The first real Club play was Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops To Conquer, with a cast of 19 directed by Judith Kinsman and notable for the wonderful costumes made by Yvonne Cliff whose talent and dedication to the club over the years was to be invaluable.
The momentum continued for the next few years as the Club gained structure and new members. Echo continued to write local based Pantomimes and the format of two shows a year, usually a musical or pantomime at Christmas and a play such as a comedy or thriller in the Spring, was put in place.
In 1984 the Club hired its own premises, Cambridge House at the corner of Station Road and it also started sharing, with the Minibus Society, the old village Fire Station opposite the Memorial Hall, to store lighting, props and costumes, which of course it still uses today.
In 1990 the first proper musical was staged in the form of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, directed by Peter Jones and a by-product of the musical team put together for this was the formation of the band Reverse Gear, who played countless shows up until 2002 when they called it a day.
Alan Milne has already been mentioned, but the involvement and encouragement of children in a village drama group is an essential ingredient and Wrington has been blessed with many talented individuals, many of whom unfortunately leave for pastures new in their late teens.
However, grasping the opportunity to enhance the potential of the youngsters Julie Marshall (now Kingcott) set up and evolved what is now the Junior Youth Drama group and this now produces separate shows alongside the "adult" Club. A small village able to put on three well received productions a year from its inhabitants is indeed a feat.
It would be impossible of course to mention even a fraction of the dedicated and talented people that have served the WDC over the years producing, on the stage, behind the scenes and those who support us in other ways like the local businesses. We thank you all in all your different ways for your efforts in keeping the Club going and making it a big part of village life for many.
Of course we have to complete the full picture by admitting that there had been a village drama group before WDC was formed. A post-war initiative by headmaster Glanford Waite led to the formation of The Wrington Players in 1948. The group had its up and downs in a period of austerity but was forced to disband after they struggled to cast their last show Gaslight in November 1962.
One of the stalwarts of the Players was Michael Clark who had dared in 1958 to suggest to the committee that a pantomime, of all things, be staged. He was met with stunned silence and it was to be 23 years before Wrington put on its first panto - which is where we came in.
Happy 25th Anniversary to Wrington Drama Club.
(Information from "Bent Nails and Biscuit Tins" by kind permission of Mark Bullen)