Final curtain for drama society if leisure centre closed

HORSHAM Operatic and Dramatic Society believes it would face the final curtain if its Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre home was demolished.

Chairman Ray Fisher said if after consultation Horsham District Council decided to get rid of the centre they believed they would not be able to relocate locally.

After an emergency general meeting of the society on Tuesday, he said: “Whilst we appreciate the commercial reasoning behind the current re-development proposals, it is our belief that HAODS would be one of the many arts and leisure groups currently based at the leisure centre that would be unable to relocate locally, and would quite simply disappear the moment the wrecker ball strikes.

“The short term cash gain from any planning agreements must be measured in the loss to arts and leisure in the local community.

“This is a difficult thing to put a price to. But Horsham will be a much worse place for its loss.”

The society acknowledged the ‘support and encouragement it has received from the council over the years with the provision of our present accommodation with a generous rent and rate allowance’.

A statement released following the meeting said: “At the time of the construction of the present leisure centre the council acknowledged the partnership between the local theatre and its principal local hirers.

“The present accommodation provides a high ceiling scenery and props construction dock, a costume store and a rehearsal room of similar dimensions to the Capitol stage.

“Without these facilities and the council’s generosity HAODS could not continue to operate in its current form.”

HAODS has been performing musicals, operettas and plays to Horsham audiences since 1954.

The society, which is open to all local people to join, operates from its base at HAODS House, in the Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre.

Two or three times a year performances take place at the Capitol theatre, frequently to almost full houses and critical acclaim.

In addition to the performers, an army of back-stage crew, props and costume teams and other helpers bring the numbers involved in each production to more than 100.

Under its constitution, following successful shows, donations are made to local charities from the profits.

“Visitors to HAODS rehearsals are struck by the camaraderie of the cast members – grandparents to teenage students all working together for a common aim – a better definition of Big Society at work in Horsham you are unlikely ever to see,” the statement said.

During its time at the leisure centre HAODS has operated as an umbrella organisation for the promotion of arts in the community.

Its facilities have been and are currently shared by many other groups, including junior performance arts and dance classes.

Many of the thousands of Horsham people who have been members of HAODS over the last 57 years have gone on to work in the theatre or have been active at amateur level in local performance arts.

HAODS membership numbers and finances are sound and steady and its committee is planning for it to be a continuing and important part of the town’s art and leisure scene for years to come.