History of the Youth Drama Festival

In February 1944 a Youth Conference was held in Welwyn Garden City and a local Youth Committee was formed to co-ordinate youth activities. The first event sponsored was a Youth Drama Festival which was held at the Woodhall Community Centre, WGC in May 1944. A local resident adjudicated, but no awards were made, as it was non-competitive.

An old photo of the 1945 WGC YDF Winners - The Girl Guides

The success of the first festival encouraged the Committee to commission a silver cup, the Youth Committee Cup, to be awarded for the best performance in 1945. This historic cup is still awarded to the winning Senior entry.

The Festival moved to the Barn Theatre in 1947, following the building’s return from war-time use as an army salvage depot.

In 1949, the Festival was divided into two sections, Senior and Junior, and a professional adjudicator was employed. This became the pattern for all later years.

Since then, thousands of young actors from Herts, Beds, Cambs, London and elsewhere have participated in the annual festival.

The Junior Section is for casts of School Year 10 and under, at the time of the Festival, and the Senior Section for those under 22. All performers must be amateurs. Entries may consist of a one-act play, an extract from a longer play, or a new piece of work, lasting between 20 and 50 minutes. A GoDA adjudicator comments on each play and judges the Festival.

The Festival doesn’t generally receive grants or subsidies. It depends upon audience support (through the sale of tickets and programmes) to cover operating costs. The Committee, stage crew and front-of-house staff are all unpaid volunteers, without whose dedication the festival could not continue.

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