NODA AGM 2023

Outgoing Presidential Address 

What a delight to complete another exciting year for the Association.  It must be admitted that back in Plymouth last October many of us doubted that I would make it, but 14,815 miles later, I am pleased to report that I have managed to visit every Region and attended each Region’s annual event.  It comes to nearly 100 shows, meetings, and galas.  It is such a pleasure to meet with the members and chat to them about their difficulties and their many successes. 

I am pleased to report that our members in all Regions are enthusiastic to reach higher standards in entertaining their local communities.  From the small village halls to the mighty Hippodromes, groups of varying sizes are stretching the bounds of possibilities to give the locals “a good night out”.  We often laugh at members of the public saying, “It’s as good as in London”, but quite often the emotions generated in the local hall are just as genuine as any visit to the National Theatre.   

The camaraderie that our groups engender is priceless.  There is nothing so lovely as to sit among the locals as they are brought together by the sharing of the local group.  NODA can provide a special voice for all the wonderful work that is being done at grass-roots level and as Representatives of the Association we should be shouting out loud about the brilliance of local theatricals in the UK.   

As the Association approaches its 125th birthday, we should be looking back at the aspirations of our founding fathers and asking ourselves whether we are maintaining their noble ideals.  To this end your Council initiated an independent survey of the Association’s activities and I express my thanks to all those who took the time to take part.  The participation was larger than we expected, and the results once analyzed were positive.  When back in February 1899, Mr. A.P. Bulfield, Musical Director of Lancaster Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society suggested the setting up of a mutual aid network he probably never envisaged that it would grow and grow until it was a support to the whole UK. We now have lots of plans for facing up to the future and the incoming President and Council will soon be charging you to new heights.    

I first moved from tutor to Regional Rep 35 years ago and not only has life in Britain changed greatly in that time, but the expectations of our members and their audiences have also moved on.  Every week I have had the pleasure of witnessing amazing fetes of brilliance in the use of technology, the immersion of actors into intricate characterisations, and wonderful storytelling, and it isn’t all about the glamour of the expensive productions.   Certainly, our ‘big’ companies are spending large sums on lavish productions inexpensively hired theatres and their members are coming up to standard with a performance to match the venue and cost of tickets, but often the most thrilling is the production put on in an old warehouse with a couple of bits of borrowed furniture and some first-class acting/singing. 

As we heard from the Chairman of the NODA Theatre Summer School, we continue after more than 70 years to provide a major training opportunity for our members, presently at Yarnfield Park in Staffordshire.  Jacquie Stedman has spoken with her usual enthusiasm about its legacy throughout the country.  We now have a regular contingent from our most northerly members on Shetland.  The professional theatre is constantly moving forward, learning new tricks, developing new techniques, and advancing the possibilities of our ability to communicate.  We are fortunate to have tutors at our Summer School who are well versed in all of these new skills and experts in tried and tested techniques.  If you are a golfer, you’d happily pay a little extra to get the Pro to improve your technique.  As an actor, a director, or a techie we should be leaping at this opportunity to brush up our technique and improve our swing (so to speak). 

I have a lot still to learn and a lot to be reminded of, so you’ll see me there in the future. 

As Representatives of the Association, we must not be afraid to step out and be heard.  Of course, our members don’t like being made aware of any foibles they may have.  None of us do, but if we as Representatives of the Association are to be of any use, we must set out to maintain the standards of assistance for each other, mutual support at the box office, and sharing of equipment and members.  The Association must set the highest standards and each of us must maintain that image for our members.  Spend time getting to know your districts, stay after productions and talk positively to the members, make yourselves available to committees with helpful advice or the contact for a knowledgeable friend. 

My immediate predecessor, Gordon Richardson, spoke to us at the beginning of his term of office about being inspired.  There have been many people over the years whose performances on stage, selfless help off it and general friendship have inspired me to try to improve myself.  As a national umbrella association, it is our task to live up to our strapline and seek constantly to inspire our member societies and individuals to raise their game.  I ask you to go forward into our celebratory year with the words of The Bard. “Be Bloody, Bold and Resolute” in your efforts.  Yes, the chances of disaster remain imminent, and the bank is almost empty, but be fearless.  Your audiences will be so grateful for your existence and your communities blessed. 

Above all, I would like to remind you that what we do is a hobby.  It is supposed to be a fun activity away from the humdrum life of work and domesticity.  So, learn to smile and get out there and have fun! 

It would not have been possible for me to serve you this year without the dedicated help of our amazing NHS.  For me, in particular, the wonderfully warm and encouraging staff of the Renal Units in the Royal, Devon and Exeter and Honiton hospitals whose care has extended to keen interest in my next Friday train journey. 

As, Past President Gordon Richardson will attest, our railways are not always reliable at present: especially South West Railways.  This can cause me to be stranded at random stations or require me to chase a train to another station.  This would not have been possible without the unwavering support of the Pomeroy family.  In particular, Joyce, who has appeared with transport at the most odd hours and never ceases to be interested in what I’ve been up to.   

I would like to present to Joyce and her husband, David, with NODA Commendation Medals as a mark of the Association’s and my gratitude.  Your assistance has gone way beyond what we expect of a NODA Rep and her spouse. 

 

President’s Award for 2023 

As I have already mentioned, the general standard of productions around the country this year has been very high, and I have had the privilege to meet members of some amazing groups giving outstanding service to their local communities.  It was tempting to say that I could not choose between them.  But on reflection, there was a standout production.   

This group has the privilege to perform in one of the oldest theatres in the country.  The theatre has been lovingly restored to its Georgian splendor.  It is tiny.  The audience sit tightly packed onto benches demanding friendship.  The actors are extremely close and there really is no place to hide. 

I was privileged to see this group perform “Swive”, a recently written play by Ella Hickson about Queen Elizabeth I.  Not only was the play appropriate to its surroundings, but it was presented in a way which blended the old building and the modern style with the addition of monitors displaying factual historical information.  The play, which uses historical situations to reflect on modern political power struggles, featured many startling portrayals of familiar historical characters.  The first act centers on the Princess Elizabeth as she negotiates the dangers of the reign of Mary I.  I discovered in chatting with the cast afterwards that the actor who gave a stunning performance as the teenage princess was merely sixteen years old. 

We must encourage our societies to tackle new work and to give opportunities to exciting new talent (whatever the age).   

I award the President’s Cup for 2022-23 to Richmond Drama Society at the Georgian Theatre, Richmond, Yorkshire.

Nick Lawrence

NODA National President - 2022-2023