To start at the beginning (A very good place to start!), the Society can trace its history back more than a century, to 1902 in fact. In those days the Society performed only one show per year, mainly Operas, hence the name. Not having a theatre of its own, the Town Hall was used for its productions. Once the Society restarted after the war, productions were moved to the Regal Cinema, where it continued to present an annual Opera or Operetta. In 1979 the Society became a Limited Company and a registered charity. At about the same time the Society became affiliated to NODA (National Operatic and Drama Association). Wells Operatic Society Committee both guide theatrical performances and manage the Little Theatre as a not-for-profit business. You can become a member of Wells Operatic Society, affiliated to NODA. We receive grants from various local authorities, such as Wells City Council and Mendip District Council. Some are received on a regular basis and some we request as a special one-off such as towards the cost of the wheelchair facility in the auditorium.
In 1979 The Society was offered the option to purchase the freehold of the present building from Mendip District Council. With a lot of hard fund raising by members of the Society and other Wells business people the building became our home and is known to all as 'The Little Theatre'. Previous to that the building was best known as the boy's building of Wells Blue Grammar School. The car park was of course the playground. Between the school's move to its new building in Milton Lane in 1964 and the purchase by the Society the building was temporarily used by a number of organisations, such as the Wells Library and even the Jehovah's Witnesses. When the Society purchased the building, considerable work was required to change the interior from rows of classrooms to space for the stage, auditorium, dressing rooms, etc. Later, the rear part of the auditorium was raised so that people in the rear seats had a better view of the stage. Over the years, an orchestra pit was created, with much breaking through concrete and digging, the stage right wings were added and the auditorium was given a total refurbishment. During this time we took advantage to also install floor level emergency lighting and provision of space for two wheelchairs. This work was assisted by a donation of paint by Dulux. The front of house toilets have been rebuilt with the addition of a disabled toilet. The bar has also been refurbished with the provision of a new floor above which has been used to re-house our extensive wardrobe. Other projects have included the refurbishment of the rehearsal room, the provision of better toilet and washing facilities backstage, the repair of part of the roof and the resurfacing of the car park. Work of this nature is costly and can only be done a bit at a time when the Society's finances allow. With the exception of a few very specialised trades, members of the society carry out almost all maintenance and refurbishment work in their spare time, saving us the cost of employing outside contractors. We are lucky to have such skilled and talented members who are prepared to donate their valuable time. If you have any skills and spare time to offer there are always many repair or improvement jobs to be done. Even if you can only wield a paintbrush please let the Theatre Administrator know. There is more to theatre than just performing on stage! Running our building, even before considering the cost of staging shows, costs in the region of £300 per week. This covers electricity, heating, telephone, and all the essential repairs and maintenance. As a theatre operating a licensed bar and open to members of the public during shows we have to comply with many legal and health and safety regulations. The building is regularly inspected by Mendip District Council and other bodies and must meet their requirements in order to keep our alcohol and public entertainment licences.