Curtain finally falls on 81-year-old theatre group

The Bexhill Amateur Theatrical Society's last show of A Christmas Carol at the De La Warr Pavilion
The Bexhill Amateur Theatrical Society's last show of A Christmas Carol at the De La Warr Pavilion

A theatre group from Bexhill is closing after 81 years due to a lack of volunteers to form a new committee.

The Bexhill Amateur Theatrical Society (BATS) has been putting on shows since 1935 but dwindling numbers and funds has meant the end for the group.

The committee unanimously decided to close after no nominations were made to take over at its annual general meeting on March 4.

Chairman Mike Poole was sad to see it go but wanted to focus on the joy BATS has brought to the town.

“The AGM was quite sad and we took time out to talk about that but also the amount of good fun we’ve had too so it was quite a reflective meeting,” he said.

“It was not possible to elect a new committee and without one, as a registered charity, we cannot function.

“It’s disappointing but I’m optimistic that the phoenix will rise again.”

The society once had a membership of 200 people, now only 30 members remain.

And with many of the current committee retiring and no one willing to replace them, the decision was taken to shut down.

Mr Poole was just glad the society went out in spectacular fashion with its last show in January.

“I am pleased that we went out with a bang with our last production at the De La Warr Pavilion of A Christmas Carol with around 900 people and rave reviews left, right and centre,” he said.

“But at the end of the day if the membership is not there then we cannot continue.

“BATS has been producing tons and tons of shows but unfortunately this is happening a lot across the voluntary sector as people are not volunteering anymore, especially the under-40s, as their lives are too busy and they can’t commit.”

Another problem the group found is that as it does not have a permanent home to put on shows, it regularly uses the De La Warr which is very expensive.

Even the Christmas carol, with 900 attendants, made a loss and as a charity, funds are scarce.

But as Mr Poole said, money is not their motivation.

“We don’t do this for money – we do this because we love it and to bring entertainment and do the best we can to make shows to the interest of the people of Bexhil,” he said.

“I’m very pleased and proud to have worked with them and to be their chairman for the last two years.

Mr Poole hoped the group would be able to put on shows again, even if it is not as BATS, as there is so much talent and enthusiasm in the society.

Looking back on BATS’ illustrious history, the chairman said it was all worthwhile as the group had brought some joy to the world.

“I can only imagine how many shows there have been over the years.

“There must have been hundreds and hundreds as if you go back a few years, the society was doing six shows a year and more before that.

“I can only imagine the tens of thousands of people who have come to watch them.

“If we have brought some entertainment and fun to that many people for that length of time then it’s all been worthwhile.”

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