St. John's Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society

St. John's Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society (Nelson) entertained the citizens of Pendle for over 80 years from 1925 to 2007, when they came together with Colne Operatic Society to form the Pendle Hippodrome Theatre Company.

Yes, the name of our society is quite a mouth full but it does say who we are, what we are and where we are, although it must be said that in our 80th anniversary year the “who” is more reflective than fact.

Great Marsden – The parish of St John, was in its early years the primary parish of the area that was to become the town of Nelson now the principal town in the rural Borough of Pendle. Pendle named as may be understood because of its location at the foot of Pendle Hill the original back drop for the tales of the Lancashire witches is situated in the centre an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The Society, founded in 1925 was very much part of parish life, church membership and attendance in those days being mandatory for any Society member. Society performances were staged in the church hall and the organisation was firmly established within the town's musical life.

The success enjoyed by the Society in its formative years was soon reflected in the need to secure a larger performance venue. The first move, to the Alhambra Theatre near the town centre was soon followed by a second move to the Palace Theatre, a 1,700 seat giant and the largest theatre in the area. Nelson Palace was to be our home for the next forty years until an unsympathetic management viewed our one-week tenure as “not commercially viable”. We were asked to “move on”.

No other suitable venue being available in Nelson we had little choice but to set our sights further afield. The Municipal Hall three miles up the road in Colne became our new home for the next twelve years; by this time we were staging two productions per year and were therefore in weekly rehearsal throughout the year.

Throughout its first fifty years the Society was subject to many changes and faced numerous trials and tribulations but none of this in any way prepared us for a decision we had to take in 1978 when the opportunity arose for us to own our own theatre.

The Colne Hippodrome just a few hundred yards away from the Municipal Hall was to close. The Hippodrome built in 1914 as a cini-variety theatre was a run down bingo hall with a seating capacity of approximately 600 and was ours for the asking. A temporary committee was hastily formed with parties from the three operatic societies that currently used the Municipal hall as a venue and the decision to proceed with the acquisition to purchase the Hippodrome was taken.

For the next eight and a half years the Society worked alongside its partner societies in restoring, repairing and improving our own theatre at the same time as rehearsing and producing two full musical shows per year, this would not be everyone's idea of a relaxing hobby but by the Autumn of 1986 the end was in sight and on December the 6th of that year the Hippodrome reopened in great splendour to begin its new life and for us a new home.

St John's continued to stage two full productions per year as did Colne Operatic Society, our partners in the ownership of the theatre. Our choice of production varied considerably and ranges from popular to minority interest, from cult to concert, our youngest members were tots and our oldest octogenarians, with our own theatre to run there was a calling for everyone whatever their age, origin, capability or talent.

Now as part of Pendle Hippodrome Theatre Company we look forward to our next 80 years with confident enthusiasm and invite anyone with an interest in theatre and the performing arts to pay us a visit either at rehearsal or at the theatre, call in, it may be a one off or it may be for life.


Written in 2006 by Chairman Keith Walton


1925 - Dogs Of Devon
1926 - Les Cloches De Cornville
1927 - Falka
1928 - The Gondoliers
1929 - The Mikado
1930 - The Quaker Girl
1931 - Merrie England
1932 - A Country Girl
1933 - The Mikado
1934 - Katinka
1934 - Rose Marie
1935 - New Moon
1936 - Rio Rita
1937 - Desert Song
1938 - Wild Violets
1939 - O.H.M.S
1946 - Rose Marie
1947 - The Vagabond King
1948 - Castles In Spain
1949 - Good Night Vienna
1950 - Victoria & Her Hussar
1951 - The Student Prince
1952 - Annie Get Your Gun
1953 - Wild Violets
1954 - Brigadoon
1955 - Oklahoma!
1956 - Show Boat
1957 - White Horse Inn
1958 - Summer Song
1959 - Carousel
1960 - The King & I
1961 - Call Me Madam
1962 - The Quaker Girl
1963 - The Music Man
1964 - The Merry Widow
1965 - The Student Prince
1966 - Desert Song
1967 - Summer Song
1968 - Kismet
1969 - Hello Dolly
1970 - White Horse Inn
1971 - My Fair Lady
1972 - A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum
1972 - Fiddler On The Roof
1973 - Brigadoon
1974 - Four Of The Best
1975 - Kiss Me Kate
1976 - New Moon
1977 - Merrie England
1978 - The Mikado
1978 - Annie Get Your Gun
1979 - La Vie Parisienne
1979 - Desert Song
1980 - Yeomen Of The Gaurd
1980 - Dancing Years
1981 - Vagabond King
1982 - White Horse Inn & Finians Rainbow (Excerpts)
1982 - Quaker Girl
1983 - Flower Drum Song
1984 - Lilac Time
1984 - Call Me Madam
1985 - Oliver
1985 - King's Rhapsody
1986 - Half A Sispence
1986 - The Pirates Of Penzance
1987 - The King & I
1987 - Oklahoma!
1988 - Summer Song
1988 - South Pacific
1989 - Kiss Me Kate
1990 - H.M.S. Pinafore & Trial By Jury
1990 - Desert Song
1991 - 'Allo, 'Allo
1991 - Brigadoon
1991 - Fiddler On The Roof
1992 - Hello Dolly
1992 - My Fair Lady
1993 - Little Mary Sunshine
1993 - The Sound Of Music
1994 - Carmen The Musical
1995 - A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum
1995 - Underneath The Arches
1996 - Some Enchanted Evening
1996 - Stepping Out
1997 - The Music Man
1997 - The King & I
1998 - Call Me Madam
1998 - Something's Afoot
1999 - Carousel
1999 - Guys & Dolls
2000 - Oliver
2000 - South Pacific
2001 - Seven Brides For Seven Brothers
2002 - Scrooge The Musical
2002 - Finians Rainbow
2003 - The Sound Of Music
2003 - Little Shop Of Horrors
2004 - My Fair Lady
2004 - Billy
2005 - Cabaret
2005 - Stepping Out The Musical
2006 - Fiddler On The Roof
2006 - Into The Woods
2007 - West Side Story
2007 - Thoroughly Modern Millie