UK Community Drama Festivals Federation Charity Number SCO45173
    The UK Community Drama Festivals Federation      Representing the four countries who host the British Final of One Act Plays each year


This is a brief history of the Competitive One-Act Festival scene which is still going on today and culminates in: -
"The British Final of One-Act Plays"
From the beginning there was an inherent connection between the festival scene and the British Drama League. Below
is a condensed chronological history, which started life as the British Drama League, (BDL) in 1919, then became the
British Theatre Association, (BTA) before transforming into the four national Associations that we have today. The 'U.K.
Community Drama Festivals Federation' which now has ownership of the above event decided to retain the motto of
the BDL as it still seemed relevant today. This motto is engraved on the "Friendship Cup" which is handed on to the
next host country during the closing ceremony of the "The British Finals of One-Act Plays" each year. It should be
remembered that part of the original remit was to encourage drama groups in their endeavours to enter, improve and,
not least, enjoy the rewarding hobby of ‘Amateur Acting’. BDL It is believed that the first list of officers of the BDL was
for 1919 and listed as President Lord Howard de Walden and the Hon. Sec. was Geoffrey Whitworth. There were a
further 34 on council with 8 other committees containing on average 9 members each. Their motto was:
Ludit qui bene laboratLaborat qui bene ludit
He is playing who works wellHe who works well is playing
We would like to think that this is as true in the amateur world now as it was then. Under the chairmanship of Roger
Fry, the object of the BDL, were defined as 'the encouragement of the art of the Theatre, both for its own sake and as
a means of intelligent recreation among all classes of the community'. Expenses of running the League were estimated
at £5000 a year. It was actually started on a capital of £400, contributed, for the most part, by Lord Howard de Walden
and Robert Mond. On these slender resources a one-room office was rented in Southampton Street and a prospectus
circulated to names suggested by the Committee.
"You   have   undertaken   great   tasks",   wrote   Sir   Frank   Benson;   "many   of   us   will   wish   you   success   in   their   achievement.   I,
for   one,   see   what   further   service   you   can   render   from   your   combined   viewpoint   of   audience,   artist   and   manager,   to
authors,   actors   and   their   public.   If   you   are   true   to   your   programme   you   will,   on   the   neutral   ground   of   art,   unite   many
antagonists   and   reconcile   many   divergent   interests   in   one   common   and   noble   purpose.   You   will   help   to   lead   a   blindly
groping   and   war-worn   world   into   the   old   paths   of   peace,   for   in   love   and   beauty   and   delight   there   is   no   death,   no
change."   The   Public   inauguration   of   the   British   Drama   League   took   place   at   the   Theatre   Royal,   Haymarket,   on   June
This   year   the   offices   of   the   BDL   moved   from   Southampton   Street   to   more   commodious   premises   at   10   King   Street,
Covent   Garden.   Two   rooms   were   here   available,   one   for   a   general   office   and   the   other   for   a   private   room   for   interviews
and   committee   meetings.   The   general   office   could   also   accommmodate   the   nucleus   of   the   BDL   Library   which   had
arrived   in   the   form   of   the   gift   from   Miss   A.   E.   Horniman   and   consisted   of   the   entire   collection   of   plays   and   annotated
prompt   copies   used   by   her   during   her   tenancy   of   the   Gaiety   Theatre,   Manchester.   By   this   time,   the   individual
membership   had   settled   at   400   with   54   societies.   The   journal   ‘Drama’   continued   and   the   BDL   became   almost   self-
In   addition   to   the   Annual   General   Meeting,   it   had   now   become   the   custom   to   hold   an   Annual   Conference   in   some
important   provincial   centre.   This   year   it   was   held   at   Stockport,   and   once   again   afforded   an   unrivalled   opportunity   for
members   of   the   BDL   to   exchange   views   in   person   and   to   take   measures   for   the   development   of   their   own   work   and
that   of   the   BDL   in   general.   Early   in   the   year,   Mr.   Gordon   Craig   had   challenged   interested   parties   to   take   action   for   the
transfer to London of the International Theatre Exhibition recently opened in Amsterdam; this was achieved.
Outstanding   during   this   year   was   the   decision   of   the   Carnegie   United   Kingdom   Trust   to   grant   a   sum   of   £750   annually
for   three   years   for   the   running   of   the   BDL   Library,   which,   it   will   be   remembered,   had   been   started   in   a   small   way   three
years   earlier.   The   Trustees   also   allocated   £500   for   the   expense   of   moving   the   League   from   10   King   Street   to   the   larger
premises   which   would   now   be   needed.   New   premises   were   found   at   8   Adelphi   Terrace.   Then   a   further   1500   volumes
were donated by the late William Archer.
An   invitation   arrived   from   America   for   the   BDL   to   nominate   an   Amateur   Company   to   take   part   in   the   New   York   Little
Theatre   Tournament.   Seven   societies   offered   themselves   and   Viscount   Burnham   kindly   suggested   that   Mr.   W.   A.
Darlington,   Dramatic   Critic   of   the   Daily   Telegraph,   should   select   the   best.   The   choice   fell   on   the   Huddersfield   Thespians
with   their   production   of   Mr.   Sladen-Smith's   one-act   play   ‘St.   Simeon   Stylites’.   This   company   went   to   New   York   and   won
the prize of $200 'for the best production of a published play'.
Inspired   by   the   success   last   year,   ‘The   festival   of   Community   Drama’   was   born   on   a   nationwide   scale.   For   the   purposes
of   the   competition,   Great   Britain   was   split   into   six   areas   and   the   best   teams   selected   from   each   area   competed   in   the
final festival which was held in London. In total 107 teams competed to represent GB in America.
In   the   BDL’s   twelfth   annual   report   it   stated   that   there   were   now   3320   members.   Two   summer   schools   were   started,
one   in   England   and   one   in   Scotland.   The   Scottish   event   was   destined   to   continue   annually   under   the   auspices   of   the
Scottish Community Drama Association (SCDA)
Major   changes   were   afoot   and   the   SCDA   broke   away   from   the   BDL,   with   the   intention   of   representing   amateur   drama
in Scotland and finding its own national winner rather than being an Area of Great Britain.
Major   changes   were,   again,   afoot   and   the   Drama   Association   of   Wales   (DAW)   broke   away   from   the   BDL,   with   the
intention   of   representing   amateur   drama   in   Wales   and   finding   its   own   national   winner   rather   than   being   an   Area   of
Great Britain.
It   became   evident   that   the   library   service   was   hampered   for   lack   of   space.   The   decision   to   seek   larger   premises   was
taken   and   suitable   premises   were   found   at   9   Fitzroy   Square.   Then,   with   help   from   Carnegie   Trust,   the   Pilgrim   Trust   and
contributions   from   our   members,   the   freehold   was   purchased.   The   new   Headquarters   were   officially   opened   by   the
Lord Chamberlain, the Earl of Cromer, on Friday, July 28th.
The   library   had   grown   to   well   over   32,000   volumes   and   with   the   thunder   of   war   looming   on   the   horizon,   the   National
Festival   of   Community   Drama   was   held   outside   London,   taking   place   at   the   invitation   of   the   SCDA   at   the   Theatre   Royal,
The decision was taken that the competitive festival would not take place, this continued until 1946.
During   1940   there   was   a   steep   decline   in   membership.   However,   new   members   began   to   pour   in   and   the   BDL,   as   well
as the country as a whole, knew that the worst was over.
When   a   document   was   prepared   to   celebrate   the   BDL’s   twenty   fifth   anniversary,   there   were   5000   members.   We   never
reclaimed that level of support but the BDL did grow and prosper.
The BDL became an Incorporated Company on 1st August.
The   BDL   was   formally   wound   up   and   became   the   BTA   on   21st   March.   The   reason   given   was   that   an   ‘improved   image   of
the League was needed’. The title would ‘fit in with more modern ideas on theatre’.
The   BTA   finally   wound   itself   up   and   closed   its   doors   due   to   financial   reasons,   having   become   very   much   a   professional
organisation.   It   should,   however,   be   recorded   that   the   Drama   Association   Wales   did   manage   to   salvage   the   play   script
lending library which formed the basis for what is now acknowledged as being one of the best in the world.
The   festival   scene   continued   to   operate   under   the   banner   of   the   BTA,   but   was   administered   as   the   National   Festival   of
Community Theatre (NFCT) in England.
The   management   of   the   BTA   decided   that   they   could   no   longer   be   supportive   of   the   competitive   festival   scene,   even
though   it   had   been   an   intrinsic   part   of   the   organisation   since   its   inception.   The   official   reason   was   believed   to   be   the
introduction   of   VAT.   The   NFCT   became   the   All-England   Theatre   Festival   (AETF)   in   September;   the   name   is   believed   to
have been the brainchild of Donald McLoughlin from the Northern Area.
The   AETF   broke   away   from   the   BTA   and   was   re-born   as   an   amateur   organisation   to   run   the   competitive   One-Act
festival   scene   within   England.   This   was   not   a   natural   progression   but   forced   by   the   BTA.   The   AETF   is   now   run   and
maintained   by   unpaid   volunteers.   It   is   the   only   national   ‘Competitive   Festival   of   One-Act   Drama’   within   the   country.   At
its birth it was decided that it would retain the three Area format and dispense with the Central London Area.
Saw   the   unveiling   of   the   AETF   emblem   which   was   done   under   the   guidance   and   support   of   ‘KLEENEX’.   The   emblem   is
still   used   today.   Throughout   all   of   this   time   the   four   nations   have   met   in   healthy   competition,   the   festival   taking   place
by rotation between the nations. This has been on a somewhat ad-hoc basis until.
When a Memorandum of Understanding document was signed by all four nations.
Saw the acceptance of the constitution for the "U.K. Community Drama Festivals Federation"
International Trophies Associated formally with the BDL, then the BTA and now the UKCDFF
These trophies are: -
The Howard De Walden Cup - Was presented to the BDL to be presented to the ‘winning Team in the National
Festival of Community Drama’ each year. The Festival is now known as the British Final. The trophy was first presented
in 1927. The only years that the festival failed to take place were 1940 to 1946.
The Geoffrey Whitworth Trophy - Was presented to the BDL to be presented for the 'best original play performed in
the festival season' each year. It is presented at the British Final and the selection is made from all countries making
up the British Final. It was first presented in 1951.
The Friendship Cup - Was presented in 2011 by the England to Wales and thence to be passed on each year to the
forthcoming host nation.
These trophies show the association with and the continuance of the original concept of the BDL, and represent all that
was good and acceptable by the founding fathers for a ‘festival of drama’ within Great Britain
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