Following the BATS’ (Basingstoke Amateur Theatrical Society) production of The Sound of Music in 2001, the parents of the children who had played The Von Trappe children were asked to create a youth society, following a remark by one of them (Joe Humberstone) that there was nothing like BATS for young people. On January 15th 2002, the parents met at The White Hart to set up the society. Chairman was Jenny Humberstone, Secretary was Mandy Shallow and Treasurer was Sandie Thomson. Sandie became Secretary shortly after and is the only remaining committee member from that first meeting.
In the year that followed, a rehearsal venue and Director were located and the first workshop was held in the Purple Room, Central Studio, Queen Mary’s College on March 2nd 2003. Twenty three young people signed up and took part. They decided a concert version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat would be the first production, and this was performed on 7th November. Directed by Dawn Wylie, who had carefully noted everything she was allowed to do from the licence holders, the show also introduced Rachel Glover as Musical Director.
The society produced two shows a year at Central Studio, and also found additional Directors, including Richard Cox, who had been Chairman of BATS in 2002, and Sally Manning. Dawn had left Basingstoke by 2006 to study at Central School of Speech and Drama, eventually becoming Head of Drama at a school in Hertfordshire. In 2008, the move to ‘big school’ was made, with the production of We Will Rock You (School Edition) being performed at the bigger venue of Queen Mary’s College Hall. This involved hiring professional lighting and sound companies – definitely a big step up from the 100-seater , self-contained Central Studio!
In 2017, Avenue Q (School Edition) saw a further step-up, this time to the Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke. The society had also found its home at Market Chambers, Church Street, Basingstoke where rehearsals, workshops and meetings continue to be held.
Throughout all the years since that first meeting took place, the whole ethos of the society has been to be affordable and all who run the society give their time freely. All money made is fed back to the society for the next generation. Next Genners, those who have performed with the society, have also grown up and are returning to give back to the next generation their expertise and skills – some are dancers who have choreographed shows for us, others have become musical directors or creative consultants! They are testament to the logo the Society has – Once a Next Genner, Always a Next Genner!