about GDC

Our Theatre’s History

Gainford Drama Club (GDC) is an amateur dramatic group based at the heart of the picturesque village of Gainford, Darlington on High Green.  The Club has been in existence since 1949 with an average membership of forty-six, producing at least two plays each year. GDC’s founding members were the wonderful Enid and Bill Burdon and we are still proud to have Enid as the Club’s President.

Since its inception, Gainford Drama Club has put on over one hundred and fifty plays, the first four of which were staged in the village hall, before moving to the Academy Theatre in 1950. The club’s popularity grew and grew and so did the audience numbers, allowing the club to invest in a more permanent home. The building that stands as the Academy Theatre was once a school, which had many a pupil walk through its doors but one in particular stood out and that was none other than Stan Laurel who became one half of the popular Laurel & Hardy.

Quite fitting that the school would later become a theatre.

Club members would begin to volunteer a lot of their time to help build the stage fit the lighting, make curtains, and fully equip a dressing room. It wasn’t long before the wonderful little theatre, that we so know and love to this day, was formed. After 1961, the club became affiliated with the Village Hall complex, and in 1986, tip-up seats from the Darlington Civic Theatre (now the Hippodrome) were installed and paid for by members and friends. These seats replaced the older North-eastern Railway passenger seats that had been installed when the producer at the time, Ken Shepherd, worked for the railways and obtained the seats when the old carriages were scrapped. The club has regularly undergone refurbishments to help improve the facilities and continue its longevity.

Again, in 2010 when Darlington Civic Theatre became the Hippodrome and underwent a major refurbishment, GDC were again able to obtain the red tip up seats that many an audience sit in today and enjoy two hours of escapism from the outside world.

Little did anyone know in 1949, that GDC would still be producing plays twice a year, 73 years on. 2019 was a big year for the club. It was the first year the club went digital with its ticketing system, the club won the award for ‘Contribution to the Arts’ at the Teesdale Mercury Community Pride Awards and it also celebrated its 70th anniversary. It was only fitting that they would produce two plays heavily centred around having a party: Richard Harris’, ‘Party Piece’ and the ever popular, ‘A Kick in the Baubles,’ by local playwright, Gordon Steel. It was with great surprise to the club that one of the performances of ’A Kick in the Baubles’ was watched by the author himself. The cast and backstage crew met Gordon and his wife after the show and were greeted with a fabulous review from him.

The club has produced over 150 plays and would pride itself on performing two plays a year, that was until the pandemic hit in 2020. The year 2020 was bleak for all and it was the first time GDC closed its doors for a whole year and a half without a single play being produced. However, the commitment and dedication of all the clubs’ loyal members would not let GDC fall into the shadows. A ‘Just Giving’ page was set up to which many a generous individual would donate to help keep the club going. Members of the club showcased more than just their acting talents and entertained their social media followers with singing, storytelling, and famous comedy skits from the likes of Victoria Wood. There was even a showcase of writing talent when one member wrote their own play specifically written to be performed via Zoom and posted to social media.

The coming together of all these people and their love for GDC, helped to keep the club alive and raise the spirits of individuals during a really difficult time.

The theatre reopened its doors ¡n November 2021 with a wonderfully farcical comedy; Ken Ludwig’s ‘Lend Me a Tenor’, which saw audience members laughing until they cried whilst they watched the chaos ensue in the world of the ‘Cleveland Grand Opera House’.

I think it’s fair to say that Gainford Drama Club has a wonderful history and has a lot of dedicated people keeping it going.

Over the years the club has produced many a well-known play. Many people who watch our plays and take away a programme can see the full list of plays, but here is a taster of what the club has performed:

1949: Our Bessie (1st ever play)

1953: Blithe Spirit (performed again in 1987 and 2015)

1969: Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ (performed again in 2017)

2012: ‘AlIo’Allo

Performances tend to run between 7 and 10 nights in the Spring and Autumn and as a club, we love to welcome audiences new and old and hearing all their wonderful reviews as they leave the theatre. We are always welcoming members of the village who have lived there for years and not known that we exist, so it’s always lovely to hear of people discovering us all the time.

We are always looking for new members to the join the club, whether it’s on stage or backstage. We meet regularly Mondays and Thursdays for rehearsals and on Wednesdays for set building. We also like to socialise as a club too, whether it’s going to other local theatre shows or going to the pub for a drink and we love welcoming new members into our GDC family. You can follow us on Facebook and Instagram and keep up date with all the latest news, direct from the theatre.

We hope you enjoy the Club as much as we do.

Emma Simpson