Friday 9 March 1990

Danny Gives An Oscar


After last week's gala concert to celebrate the Warminster Athenaeum's 21st anniversary, local historian Danny Howell presents 'not so much a history, more an entertainment' at the theatre tonight (Friday 9th March 1990).

He will tell the story of the Athenaeum, going back to its beginning in 1855. Since then, the Athenaeum has presented a wide variety of activities, performances and improving lectures; and in its time has served as a lecture hall, concert theatre, meeting place and silent-film cinema.

During the 1920s and 30s it was the home of the Warminster Operatic and Amateur Dramatic Society.

From 1930s onwards, in the guise of the Palace Cinema, the Athenaeum showed talkies which included the popular films of Warminster's very own Freddie Batholomew.

Local people fondly recall how, in 1948, Eric Sykes appeared with Fortescue's Repertory Company, who took up a year's residency in the theatre.

It was in 1966 that the Warminster and District Arts and Civic Society laid plans to convert the recently-closed cinema into an arts centre. This was opened by Miss Jennie Lee in March 1969 and the rest is history.

Danny's show tonight will highlight memorable moments in the Athenaeum's 135 years.

The entertainment will include live music with audience participation, silent-film footage with piano accompaniment, extraordinary magic lantern images, and surprise guests from the present and the past, including the inimitable doyen of the theatre world 'Mr Oscar Wilde' himself.