AS I mentioned in my first part of the History of the Barn Theatre, a production of Under Milk Wood in 1958 kept the group busy with a full cast.

That cast included three members of the same family taking different parts, namely Dorothy, Jim and Joan Willis, playing Lily Smalls, PC Attila Rees and Rosie Probert, respectively.

Joan was also the pianist during her time acting with the group, and met her husband-to-be at the theatre which had become known as the 'largest matrimonial agency' in Didcot.

Just to prove the success of the 'agency', they have now been married for 58 years!

Other married couples had also been introduced to each other during their acting days.

Following the success of obtaining the premises that The Barn Theatre sorely needed, the group went on to have a fulfilling and rewarding 27 years entertaining the local audiences.

A continual flow of members keen to tread the boards or help with designing scenery or supporting backstage made the group a very versatile company.

During the period 1949-1950, the group were responsible for organising a series of very successful dances in the Coronet Ballroom in Didcot and, in 1955, the purchasing of the lease of the YMCA hut had become a reality and a mortgage for £2,000 taken out.

The first production in the new Barn Theatre building was a play entitled 'Britannia of Billingsgate' (Bill Brind is centre front row), and rehearsals were actually held while the theatre was being built.

Plays were being produced regularly to good audience numbers, often being a sell-out on a Friday night. Annual pantomimes became a popular feature too.

During all this time, the group had been supported by 'Friends of the Barn Theatre Club' a group of people who were willing to arrange whist drives, jumble sales and fairs for theatre funds.

The director of the theatre continued to be Bill Brind until he was succeeded by Capt. Ken Hornsey who steered it through some difficult times during his tour of office at Didcot Depot.

When he left for Singapore, the group was in a sound financial position and some much-appreciated re-equipping and improvements took place.

John Abbott became the new director and also chairman of the management committee.

The group had always had a good flow of members with four in particular being constant from the early days. They were Mildred Cox (nee Hubbard), John Abbott, Tony Whitmarsh and Windsor (Wyn) Spinks.

It’s thanks to them (especially Mildred) writing about the theatre and keeping photographs and programmes that I am able to write this history today.

Unfortunately, a fall in membership caused the theatre to finish in 1974 but anyone who had been involved would never forget the fun and hard work of rehearsals and final performances. The 'smell of the grease paint', 'overture and beginners please' and the audience’s reactions and applause was music to their ears.

Six years after the last production, the theatre building was razed to the ground as it had become an eyesore and nearby residents complained about the sight of it.