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‘The Woodlanders’ is the longest running music hall in Somerset. It was begun in 1977 to raise funds for St Katharine’s church and the local village hall in East Woodlands, a small village near Frome. The ad hoc company of local people, willing to disport themselves for the entertainment of a paying audience, has managed to stage a show every year since, raising over £100,000 for charity in the process.

We have produced this short history of the company and the show, drawing directly on the memories of those who were visionary enough to begin the Woodlanders’ story, and those daft enough to take part in it.
But where to begin? Perhaps at the beginning…

The Woodlanders (originally the ‘Woodlands Variety Company’) came into being in 1977 when Mrs Lydia Tudgay, who was choir mistress for the St Katharine’s church choir proposed holding a concert party as a fund raising evening in support of the local church and the village hall. Originally envisaged as a simple concert, in discussion it was proposed that a broader based format might work. This was agreed. The event was to be based loosely on the ever popular template of the music hall – a variety of short acts, mainly based on music – whether song, dance, or musical performance. It established the unshakeable Woodlanders’ principle ‘If you don’t like this act, there will be something else along shortly.’ Variety is not only the spice of life it is the lifeblood of the show from its earliest days. Peter Chapman volunteered to bring the show together and became the de facto producer, a role he filled to brilliant effect for thirty years.

So the ‘Olde Tyme Music Hall’ was launched in the modest surroundings of East Woodlands Village Hall.

The idea proved popular and demand for tickets – at the princely sum of £1 each - was such that while a single night was planned, a second, repeat performance was hastily arranged for the following weekend. Both nights were a sell-out and a legend was born.

To navigate through the Woodlanders History use the tabs below or progress to the following page using the "Next" command
Introduction | The First Show | On The Road | 1978/79 | The Next Phase (The Chapmans Years) | Music | Comedy & Variety | Some Key Acts | David Millard |Peter Chapman John Whatley | Thelma ( "I'm Not Well" Moore |Star Turns Continued|Recent Years/Future |Programmes|