Background to the festival

Background to the One Act Play festival

A bit of history

In 1926 the British Drama League held its first experimental festival of one-act plays. In its first year seven societies took part in the competition, or festival as it was known. The next year the number was up to one hundred and fifty. In 1930 the number was 400, in 1932 600, and by 1936 seven hundred and forty seven groups had entered.  Very quickly a system of rounds had to be developed to cope with the numbers of entries. There was a first round at a regional level from which adjudicators would send their selections forward to a second round. Another set of adjudicators would then send a selection forward to a final round held annually in London.

The Scottish Community Drama Association was formed in 1926.    Geoffrey Whitworth founder of British Drama League received an invitation from New York Little Theatre Movement to send out the best of British Amateurs to compete against American amateur companies for the David Belasco Cup in their annual festival in New York

To select this team the British Drama League initiated a Festival of amateur Drama and to be representative of Britain a way had to be found to include Scotland.  An appeal was made to a Mr Glen McKemmie, of the Scottish National Players, who got together with other interested parties.  This meeting appointed an executive committee charged with the organisation of a Scottish Festival in the winter of 1926/27. The persons responsible, or Founding Fathers as they were called were, Dr C Bernard Childs, Edinburgh (first Chairman), Mr D Glen Mackemmie, Glasgow, Mr Hal D Stewart, Glasgow and Mr Walter R Cuthbert, Dundee who then ran the first ever festival under the name of Scottish National Festival of Community Drama, from this evolved the Scottish Community Drama Association. In 1928 Ardrossan & Saltcoats Players with ‘The Old Lady Shows her Medals’ by J M Barrie won the British Finals and went on to bring back to Britain the David Belasco Cup from their win in New York. They had performed their play to over 55,000 people in Scotland, England, America and Canada. Incidentally it was reported that it cost their club £600 to compete in all these Finals – this was a lot of money those days!

In 1927 SCDA, set up a Scottish annual festival.  It experienced similar success and by 1937 attracted around three hundred and fifty entries.  The Scottish festival had its own winner who went on to the London final to compete with English teams.

In 1938 the final of the National Festival (now called British Finals) was held outside London for the first time by SCDA in Glasgow The war brought a significant reduction in the League’s membership but activities continued as best they could.

What happens today?

In Scotland SCDA operates the Festival as a national event with three main stages. All entrants participate within their own District with the winning team or teams progressing to the Divisional Festival. The winning two entrants from the Divisional final then go through to the Scottish Final and the Scottish winner proceeds to the British Final that is hosted in rotation by Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

An adjudicator gives a short assessment of every competing performance to the audience at the end of each evening.   The adjudicator also chooses the winners of the various awards available at each festival and the overall winner. Festivals at all levels are held at a specific venue and spread over a number of nights.

District Secretaries need to finalise entries by the end of November of the preceding year and festivals are usually completed by end of February. Any club considering entering for the first time should discuss their plans with their District Secretary at the earliest possible time. Divisional Festivals are normally over by the end of March with the Scottish Final in late April.

If a club is premiering an original play in the festival then the author can be eligible to enter the Scott Salver competition with the play, not the performance, being judged by a panel of readers.

Details of teams competing in festivals are compiled and placed on the SCDA website by late January and published in the Spring edition of SCENE magazine.

Why enter a festival?

Although competition forms part of the motivation for entering a Festival, we cannot stress strongly enough that they are not cutthroat events.  We know, based on feedback from clubs who have entered festivals, how much they enjoy performing to a new audience and socialising with like minded-people.   Festivals also provide an opportunity to learn both from the adjudicators and from each other.

To enter, a club has to be a current SCDA member and has to submit an entry form by the first Sunday of November of the year preceding the competition.

We welcome non-competitive entries at all festivals for clubs who don’t wish to compete but would still like to experience the fantastic atmosphere and fun to be had.