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From 1898 there was, in Sidmouth, an Amateur Operatic Society which, with the Choral Society,  provided the vocal entertainment of the town. Their activities lapsed during the First  World War. The need for a concert party to appear at parish socials led to the  formation of the Sidmouth Arts Club,  whose history falls into three distinct  phases.

In 1922 the Rev. C K. Woollcombe (then Vicar of Sidmouth) wrote "The Fairies Dilemma" which, together with a pantomime "The Sleeping Beauty" was produced and conducted by "Billy" Greaves. The  success of these performances encouraged the Club to produce "The Rajah of Rajahpore" a modest operetta from a published libretto and score.

Phase one developed rapidly and in 1924"The Rebel Maid" was presented within months of its London production. Under the  professional guidance of Percy Stedman and  Dorothy Hughes this provided an "amateur musical on a scale never before seen in Sidmouth". Andre  Messenger's "Veronique" followed and it was inevitably then decided  to enter the realm of the immortal Gilbert and Sullivan. Thus phase two was realised and for many years these productions were presented in accordance with the highest "Savoy" tradition earning for the Club, in  the NODA  Bulletin, the accolade of "the finest exponents in Devon of the Gilbert and Sullivan Operas".  This was due to two important factors; R.W. Sampson, doyen of the earlier society, was  persuaded to emerge from retirement  when he quickly established himself with the new generation as an artist well above the accepted amateur standards.  Secondly the Arts Club consisted of a "stock" company exactly as created by Richard D'Oyly Carte who had  commissioned the original Operas. Gilbert and Sullivan, interspersed with "Tom Jones" and "Floradora" assured the high position of  the Society in the musical life of Sidmouth, culminating with "The Arcadians" - the last  show staged before the outbreak of World War II.

At the end  of the war phase three opened. The Club had  the great good fortune to interest  Gene Gerrard, the famous West End musical comedy star, in its activities: and under his  professional direction the  Savoy Operas continued together with many  famous operettas and musical comedies - "The King and I" in 1965 being  particularly outstanding.

When Gene Gerrard retired, Frederick Ryland, a producer well known in London amateur circles,  assumed the stage direction.


Pre 1922







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