Profits from the earlier productions were used to help the World War II effort in Malmesbury
It all began in 1938 when Mr Bernard Basevi, a local boy who often put on magician shows in the Town Hall, approached Mrs. Kathleen Besley, who organised entertainment in the town, with the idea of setting up a dramatic society. Mrs Besley agreed to the idea and the Athelstan Players was born.
In 1939 war broke out and many members were called to active service. Bernard Basevi was sadly killed in action, but the society continued.
Many specialist workers evacuated from Southend to work for E. K. Cole Electronics in Malmesbury joined the players; it was a way of keeping up morale during the war years. The society has continued without a break, being able to boast (like the famous Windmill Theatre), ‘We never closed’!
Profits from most of the earlier productions were used for the benefit of those suffering at that time, and to help the war effort locally.
During the 1960’s the society branched out into revue and pantomime, and in 1966 established a Malmesbury one-act play festival.
In 1973 they dissociated themselves from the festival’s organisation in order to compete independently. The society continues to enter local play festivals each year, and have been most successful in this.
Although originally it was an adults society, since the 1960’s children have become very much involved and there is now a strong junior membership.
In all this time there had never been a permanent home. It was decided to celebrate the 50th anniversary in 1988 by an all out effort to raise enough money to build a permanent rehearsal studio.
The ‘Golden Key’ appeal was launched, and after 15 months, including fourteen different productions, numerous fund-raising events, a grant from the Carnival and the unstinting support from the people of Malmesbury and the local Mayor Mr Ken Silveston, the money was raised and the building began.
The Drama Workshop was opened by actor James Grout on Saturday 8th September 1990, with a blessing from the then vicar, Rev. Peter Barton, and is now the society’s permanent home.
The annual program of activities includes a pantomime, one-act play entry, three-act play and carnival revue or old time musical, the latter keeping the old tradition of returning any profit through the Carnival for the benefit of the town.
There is also a good social calendar for both members and patrons.