Horsham group a ‘second family’ but still at risk of closure

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Members of a well respected amateur dramatics group have described the society as a ‘second family’ and spoken of its importance, as doubt continue to grow over its future.

HAODS (Horsham Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society), which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, has been based in the Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre for about 25 years.

However, there is no place for HAODS in the plans for a new sports centre in the Broadbridge Heath Quadrant, revealed earlier this year.

Speaking to the County Times in March, chairman Barry Syder said HAODS faces closure unless Horsham District Council can help find the society a new home that meets its requirements.

At an open evening to launch the group’s Autumn production, Hello Dolly, members of the society described what HAODS means to them.

Natalie Oliver said: “HAODS has been the main way for me to make friends as a newcomer to Horsham.

“Without this society I would really have struggled with meeting new people outside of work.”

Roz Hall said: “HAODS is my second family - sometimes it’s a bit dysfunctional but the people there are family.

“For me they’ve held my hand through my wedding, hospital visits, the birth of both my sons and the shocking loss of my mum.

“The standard of shows has been compared to the west end - at a fraction of the cost.”

Becky Munden said: “The society has become so much a part of who I am, I can’t imagine what I would do without it and the close friendships that have been formed.”

And Jane O’Sullivan added: “HAODS has been there for me in good times and bad, in sickness and in health.

“It played a huge part in getting my confidence back after major cancer surgery.”

The group that Mr Syder said is at the ‘forefront of cultural life in Horsham’ has specific requirements for a headquarters, that are met at their current home but would be difficult to achieve elsewhere.

Earlier this year, Jonathan Chowen, HDC cabinet member for arts, heritage, and leisure, said the council was in negotiations with HAODS to move the group to the Drill Hall, Denne Road, Horsham.

However, Mr Syder said the venue would require ‘considerable changes’ to meet the group’s needs.

Events such as HAODS’ recent production of Sweeney Todd would be difficult to achieve from the proposed venue.

Mr Syder added that the success of Sweeney Todd underlines the group’s importance to the district.

He said: “Anybody who came to see Sweeney Todd will realise what a unique and valuable part of the community HAODS is and why, after 60 years, our future must be protected.”