Celebrating 100 Years

In 2019, Bournemouth Little Theatre celebrates its 100th anniversary. This is a snapshot of where it all began, how the Theatre has grown and adapted during this time.

Better still - come along and see for yourself just why Bournemouth Little Theatre continues to 'Be Alive to Live Theatre and Keep Theatre Alive'.

In July 1919, Mr George Stone and Miss Dorothy Rowe, along with Mrs Gertrude Oesterley, formed The Bournemouth Dramatic and Orchestral Club. The inaugural meeting was held at the Winter Gardens on 20th September 1919 and the original intention was to perform plays at members residences (becoming known as “At Homes”).

The “At Homes” were held on a monthly basis and were incredibly popular. Due to increasing membership numbers, the first two, one act plays were presented in St Michael’s Hall in November 1919. In December 1919, the “At Homes” transferred to St Peter’s Church Hall and this is where the club was based until its own premises were opened in 1931.

The first full length play was Diana of Dobson's, staged at the Hippodrome in Boscombe for one night only on 7th February 1920.

In the 1920's a private company called Bournemouth Little Theatre Limited was formed and only Club members were allowed to own the ordinary shares with voting rights. The proceeds of a bank loan and a preference share issue raised enough funds for the building of the Club's own custom-designed, 565 seat theatre in Hinton Road which was formally opened 15th June 1931 as The Little Theatre. The name was soon changed to The Palace Court Theatre to signal the fact that the premises backed on to the famous Palace Court Hotel, (now the Premier Inn), on Westover Road.

Inevitably, World War II affected social activities but the Club remained in business, and resumed in full flight after hostilities ceased. By the mid 1950s the picture was one of seasons packed full of productions by the Club, professional shows, basement starter plays, morning teas and coffees on the Club premises. The Club was so successful that a limit of 1500 had to be placed on membership!

It was noted, that for a theatre company, Shakespeare productions were rarely, (In 1936, the club toured Twelfth Night), if ever put on. In 1964, to celebrate the quarter centenary of Shakespeare's birth and thanks to the efforts of some members; the Club produced The Tempest on Brownsea Island. This proved to be very successful and subsequent annual performances (which continue to this day), on the island were then taken on by a separate company - Brownsea Open Air Theatre (BOAT), which donates some of the profits to the National Trust.

However, the 1960s also witnessed a big change in social behaviour. Television had now come to dominate domestic entertainment, and, with declining revenues from touring companies, it proved increasingly difficult for the Club to meet the ever-escalating running costs of The Palace Court Theatre.

In 1970 the decision was taken to sell the building, and the sale was completed in 1971, providing the Club with a modest fund of cash to back its future activities.

The Club then moved to temporary premises in the town centre - to a location that proved too small for the staging of plays but which served as a useful base from which to conduct a vigorous touring programme, taking live theatre to various towns and villages in the Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire regions.

The Club also began to enter competitive drama festivals at National and subsequently International level with great success, 1981 runner up in the final of the All England Festival with The Purging (Feydeaux), 1983 winner of the One Act Play Festival with Ibsen’s Little Eyulf and 1989-winner at the Dundalk International Festival with Arthur Miller’s Danger: Memory! Members also entered International Drama Festivals in Des Moines, Aruba and Michigan - USA.

Finally, in 1975 BLTC found itself a new home in Jameson Road, Winton, Bournemouth where it was lucky to secure the upper floor of an industrial building and where Bournemouth Little Theatre has since been located and remains to this day. The Club adopted its present name in 1992, when it formed itself into a private company limited by guarantee, and also achieved charitable status.

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Important Dates

  • Monday 2nd - Saturday 7th September 2019, 7.45pm

    The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter

  • Thursday 12th - Saturday 14th September 2019, 7.45pm

    P&P Productions: Cheshire Cats by Gail Young

  • Saturday 21st September 2019, 7.45pm

    Paradox Productions: Love Letters by A R Gurney

  • Monday 21st-26th September 2019, 7.45pm

    Mystery at Greenfingers by J B Priestley

Box Office

01202 513361