My name is Margaret Ormrod and I’m the President of Neath Little Theatre. In 1935, the first meeting was held in the MC Café in Neath. It was actually on my birthday, 26th of September, when they decided to found a Neath Little Theatre. We managed to find a club room which was in Water Street and we met on Thursday nights to have one-act plays as a training ground for doing major productions in the Gwyn Hall. The membership was ten and sixpence. Land of My Fathers was by Jack Jones and it was a political message about the miners’ strikes. I have never before, or since, seen the Gwyn Hall packed right down the stone steps.
When the War broke out they more or less closed everything. The only things that weren’t closed down were the schools. They decided in the Theatre that they would close for a few weeks just to decide what was going to happen, but after a while they decided that they must carry on. We tried to make sure that it was a moonlight night because it meant that you could get home safely. We had a WVS Committee in our Little Theatre and we all had to knit, and we used to knit sea boot stockings and of course the knitting needles made a noise and they used to knit during the course of a Thursday night play and so it was decided that they could knit when it was a funny play but they could not knit when it was a serious play.
In one of the programmes there is a piece saying, ‘If the siren goes, please keep your seats because there are watchers on the roof.’
We had a lot of the young men from the Abbey Road gun site coming to the Theatre and they asked us if we would go and make them up and lend them some costumes to do a pantomime, and we went along to make them up – about six of us, seven of us. And during the course of the pantomime we had a siren and we all had to go into the shelters on the gun site and these young men went out and manned the guns, and one of our members [said], and I’ve got to be careful how I put this because it was quite ripe at the time: ‘I wish the so-and-so Germans would land tonight and see the so-and-so fairies manning the guns.’
Well, for Neath Little Theatre, we kept going, just. People were called up and we had to depend on older people and school children but we didn’t have vast amount of people to play and of course we didn’t have the facilities of making costumes and things because it was… everything was on ration and on points and on coupons and everything, so we couldn’t even have paint to paint scenery.
But we made do and mend as everybody did in the War, and actually it was a very thriving time because people were determined to keep on doing things even though everything was coming to bits behind us.