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  • Rod Chaytor

News from the NDFA and the National Drama Festival

Guiding the National Drama Festivals Association through this post-pandemic period feels like gently nudging a sleeping giant who will fully awaken to find its universe superficially unaltered but actually radically changed.

Notwithstanding successful National Drama Festivals in 2021 and 2022, the Festival firmament feels a very different place from where it was three years ago.

Events which seemed permanent fixtures have disappeared, as have in some cases the individuals who had been their cornerstones, often for decades.

Some Festivals which have successfully survived find themselves with fewer entrants.

And now the double-whammy of post pandemic caution - particularly, it might seem, within the demographic who enjoy the performance arts in all its many forms - coupled with recessionary domestic spending cutbacks, means that low audience numbers, that perennial festival problem, have in some cases further decreased.

So what do we tell our intermittently-snoozing giant when it finally, fully awakes ?

Well, hopefully that, although the environment it inhabits is very different to that it knew before its enforced hibernation, it too has metamorphosed and adapted to suit its new circumstance.

The process began last year with a name-change to The National Drama Festival and complete rebranding of the former British All-Winners Festival - not least because straw polls indicated that not even amateur theatre devotees could easily grasp the concept of what an All-Winners was.

Secondly, after nearly 60 years of peripatetic rambling, it was decided that our Festival might benefit from a base to which it could return year after year, at least while we consolidate, and where it could build up a permanent presence. The beautiful art-deco Albany Theatre in Coventry, with a Premier Inn within the building and in a City at the centre of the country, with almost unmatchable transport links, seemed a very good choice.

Then, following the rebranding and new logos came the new, beautiful and technically up-to-the minute website.

And, having successfully negotiated a return to the Main House at the Albany for 2023, came the radical suggestion that we should move to a condensed Festival with six sessions during afternoons and evenings over a long weekend, rather than the week-long evening-only event that the NDFA Festival had always been in the past.

This new format has now been agreed with the Albany, adopted for next year, and will run from Thursday July 20 to Sunday July 23, 2023.

But the changes don’t stop there.

A new and dynamic ticketing strategy has been developed which will see significant discounts and savings for those who choose to attend more than one session.

Further, the Membership package has been comprehensively reviewed and awarded new benefits (see below) amidst a drive to re-engage with Member Festivals and recruit new ones following the COVID hiatus.

Festivals can renew NDFA Membership, or join retrospectively so that their Winners can be considered for the NDF, for the pre-pandemic sum of £45.00.

Amateur drama groups can themselves join with Associate Membership of £30, which also guarantees their being considered for the NDF, should they have met the criteria but their Festival not have NDFA status.

And a new Patron category, for a minimum donation of £20, amalgamates the previous Individual and Family Memberships.

Benefits for all three categories can be found here:

We’re proud to have such talented and committed volunteers within the NDFA who are working on a pro-bono basis, bringing their professional backgrounds in sales, media, marketing, design and finance. They’re all involved in amateur theatre and we’re very grateful to them for their help in furthering the world of amateur theatre in the Festival arena.

Since I first came into contact with the NDFA during a magical trip to the Isle of Man in 2014, I have always thought of its Festival as being a slumbering giant with the potential to become something far greater than it already was.

My vision would be for a national and international annual showcase of the cream of British amateur theatre, embracing all Five Nations and the Islands of the British Isles.

I firmly believe our giant is now eyes wide-open, fully-prepped and ready but, to unleash its full potential and power, we need the support of the Festival community, the amateur theatre community in general, and theatre organisations such as GoDA, with all of whom we seek closer ties,

Adjudicators and others can make a start NOW by spreading the word about the NDFA’s exciting evolution, and fulfil their mission by joining us in a joyous celebration of British amateur theatre in Coventry next July.

Rod Chaytor


National Drama Festivals Association

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