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March 14 2022, News

SFD Chair Sam Allen

The Somerset Fellowship of Drama is gearing itself up again to get ready for starting next season’s activities with renewed vigour. Following the challenges of Covid, which has seen so much amateur drama activity being postponed, cancelled or otherwise affected, we are all looking forward to am dram returning to full strength. And the SFD intends to be ready!

But like so many other organisations, getting going again is a big challenge. A number of committee members and other key players have decided that now is an appropriate time to retire meaning that the SFD needs a major injection of new blood to keep all its activities going.

Chairman Sam Allen said, “Every organisation needs a healthy turnover of people but unfortunately the hiatus caused by Covid has meant that we need a larger number of new committee members than usual.

Vice Chair Di Dean with Ian Hurdman at the David Beach awards

We need more people to join us as committee members, adjudicators, coordinators, moderators and readers if we want to have a full programme of activities next year.”

Vice Chair Di Dean put it succinctly: “There is no easy way to put this. The SFD is suffering from an existential crisis. Unless people step up to the plate, the Somerset Fellowship of Drama will be no more.”

How did it come to this? As ever, it is not an easy story and perhaps there is no point in picking over it too much. Was it because of Covid? Well, that may have been a contributory factor but we cannot blame that alone. The main cause is that too few people have been running SFD for too long. A prime example is Philip de Glanville who has been on the committee for thirty-five years – long enough for anyone! And during that time he has done nearly everything there is to do: adjudicator, moderator, co-ordinator of two key competitions, panel reader, Webmaster, Spotlight Editor and Chairman! And he has probably undertaken one or two other roles along the way.

Philip de Glanville – longest serving committee member

But although Philip has taken longevity and range of contributions to the extreme, he is not the only committee member carrying out more than their fair share of duties. Ann Brolly doubles up as Treasurer and Membership Secretary, Di Dean is Vice Chair as well as Co-ordinator for both the David Beach Competitions. Sam Allen acts as Chair, Spotlight editor, and adjudicator for the Cinderella Trophy, a role he has done for some 20 years. So it is not surprising that there is a weariness in the committee, exacerbated perhaps by the hiatus imposed on us by the restrictions arising from the coronavirus pandemic. When you’re pedalling fast it is easy to keep going. But after a bit of a break it can be hard to get back on the bike.

“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures and, in this case an Extraordinary General Meeting,” Sam Allen quipped. “We have so many opportunities for people to get involved and we need to get it all resolved before we head into next season’s round of competitions. If we can’t get the people then we will not be able to function. It’s as simple as that.”

The plan is to let all our members know the roles on offer, and what is involved for each of them, ahead of an EGM to be held in July when we hope to be able to appoint all the necessary new committee members and other key players. This will give the new committee an opportunity to get things organised ahead of the new season and in time for the Annual General Meeting in September. It will also allow us to carry out any training if necessary.

SFD committee meeting by Zoom during lockdown

There will be plenty of continuity as most of the existing committee members are staying on. Di Dean and Pam Price will continue in their roles as Coordinator for the David Beach Youth Competition and Cinderella Trophy Competitions respectively. Treasurer Ann Brolly and Secretary Pam Hillier are both continuing in their roles and Sam Allen will stay on as Chairman until a replacement can be found. In addition Claire Martin has agreed to join the committee as Online Manager.

But that still leaves plenty of committee roles to fill:
• Phoebe Rees Competition Coordinator
• David Beach Competition Coordinator
• County Drama Festival Coordinator
• Original Playwriting Competition Coordinator
• Membership Secretary
There are also key non-committee roles to fill
• Phoebe Rees Competition Moderator
• David Beach Competition Moderator
• Adjudicators for the Phoebe Rees Competitions
• Readers for the Original Playwriting Competition

So is the SFD worth saving? Sam said, “There is not a similar organisation in most counties so clearly it is not essential for the survival of amateur theatre in Somerset. But, boy, has it given a lot of people a lot of pleasure over the years as well as keeping thespians connected across the county. This has helped to improve standards so that the best of am dram in Somerset stands tall with the best anywhere. Ask anyone who has been inspired to do better things following an adjudication report, or anyone who has been to one of our glittering awards ceremonies. Ask a former winner of one of our many trophies and awards and see how they feel about it. Ask a playwright whose work has been assessed by our reading panel, or someone who has sourced a piece of scenery or a special costume through our FaceBook page. Ask them if it is worth it. I think they’ll say the answer is yes.”

Now is your chance to play a key role in amateur theatre in Somerset by joining our team here at the SFD. Don’t wait for the EGM! If you’re interested in joining us let us know now and let’s get ready for a fantastic new season of SFD activities, making Somerset Drama amongst the best in the UK.

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