ONE of the county's longest-running drama groups is being disbanded after 70 years due to 'dwindling numbers'.

Beaconsfield Theatre Group was founded by Bernard Cane from his kitchen on Burkes Road in 1951, when he decided to place an advert in this newspaper to gauge interest in an amateur society.

Secretary Helen Sharman said the disbanding of the group had been "a long time coming" and was due to the combined disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic and dwindling membership numbers.

The response to Bernard's advertisement in the paper back in the 50s was "amazing", according to Helen. Interested parties held their first meeting at the former Earl Hotel - now the Waitrose supermarket. The rest, as they say, is history.

Roots were put down at the Chiltern Cinema, where performances were staged three times a year until its closure in 1989, then after a nomadic few years, actors settled at the Beacon Centre in Holtspur, where what was to be their final performance - Noel Coward's Hay Fever - was put on in 2020.

Helen added: "Bernard never missed a performance until his death in 1992, and the group was also proud to have Dame Wendy Hiller as its president for many years.

"We also count Aviva Wiseman, who went on to form the Chiltern Shakespeare Company with her husband Michael, as a founding member."

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Members said goodbye to the Beaconsfield Theatre Club with a final farewell party, where they were met with a cake commemorating 73 years of bringing live theatre to audiences in the town.

One member, Phillip Sheahan said: "The cake summed up the mood and emotions of the last night party very aptly - celebration and affirmation that Beaconsfield Theatre Group has a proud history and has made a significant contribution to the quality of live theatre in the community and for the community."

Although the group may be no more, it has left an "amazing legacy", Helen believes, both to the arts scene in Beaconsfield and the wider community.

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Equipment, lights and scenery from past productions have been made available to other local organisations and remaining funds are being distributed to the Theatre Shed, the Curzon Centre, the Beaconsfield Community Association, Better Connected Beaconsfield and the Buckinghamshire branch of the Mind charity.

Memorabilia from the Beaconsfield Theatre Group has also been donated to the town's Historical Society to ensure that its impressive longevity and impact are not forgotten.