A B O U T
The North Manchester Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society began its life in 1919 as the Simpson Memorial Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society, created from the merger of the Harpurhey Dramatic Society and the Simpson Memorial Tennis Club. Our home has been the Simpson Memorial Hall on Moston Lane since 1919 and to this day, it is where we not only rehearse almost every week of the year, but where we perform most of our dramatic productions and concerts.
Our first musical show was The Mikado, which we performed at the Simpson Memorial Hall in 1920. However, in 1922 the Society needed a bigger venue for its first play, Are you a Mason and took the decision to perform this at Newton Heath Town Hall. In 1925 we then moved our productions to the Queens Park Hippodrome, starting with Merrie England. 1929 found us on the move yet again, performing at St Johns Parochial Hall in Moston for our productions of Lilac Domino, Rebel Maid, Quaker Girl and Katinka. Then it was back to the Queens Park Hippodrome until it closed in 1952. In 1936, the Society put on Rose Marie at a cost of £500 and by the time it repeated this show in 1969 at the Palace Theatre Manchester, the cost of the production had risen to £5000. One of our most popular shows over the years has been The Desert Song which we first performed in 1938 and which would be repeated by us a further four times.
Rio Rita was successfully performed in the spring of 1939, but before another musical could be put into rehearsal, war broke out. Although a decision was the taken to suspend any large-scale activity, concert groups were organized to provide entertainment for troops, hospitals etc., and to continue the fund raising function of the Society. All surplus funds held by the Society at that time were distributed amongst local charities and the Society was out into suspension. The last performance by the Society at that time, possibly as a gesture of defiance to the war, was a concert version of Merrie England in 1940. Once the war was over, a meeting was called to re-establish the Society and a decision was taken to restart with yet another concert version of Merrie England, not a very original choice perhaps, but somehow appropriate to the occasion. The Society continued its charitable donations with a bed provided for North Manchester Maternity Home in 1947 and a significant donation of £350 to the Lord Mayors War Memorial Fund in 1948.
In 1948 and with a leaking roof, the Simpson Hall was declared unfit for use and the Society had to move its next dramatic production to the Queens Park Hippodrome. The Society continued to perform there until the theatre closed in 1952. To mark the closure of Queens Park Hippodrome the Society performed the North West Premier of Annie Get Your Gun. We then moved to the Palladium (Cintra) on Rochdale Road and in 1954 revived The Desert Song. The Cintra was a long narrow theatre, with terrible acoustics and the audience had great difficult in hearing what was going on. The effect on ticket sales was disastrous and support declined at an alarming rate.
In 1955 with falling attendances, the Society was at crisis point. The Committee was faced with the choice of winding up the Society or finding another and more suitable venue. They made the risky decision to move to the Palace Theatre in Manchester and put on Showboat. With a cast of over 100 it was an outstanding success and a profit of £600 was made. Meanwhile the dramatic side had moved back to the Simpson. The glory days of the Palace continued until 1981 when rising costs forced the Society to move to the Royal Northern College of Music. The final show at the Palace was White Horse Inn and we opened our spell at RNCM with The Merry Widow. Again costs forced a move from RNCM in 1995 with the last show there being The Sound of Music.
Since then, our musical productions have been staged here in Middleton, our first, The Desert Song being at the Civic Centre. Throughout the 1990s the Society was able to perform two musical productions each year, but rising costs mean that we are now able to finance only one musical show each year, relying on our plays, concerts and other fundraising activities to fund these. NMAODS last show at the Civic Centre was our award-winning Anything Goes, however, with the closure of the Civic Centre in 2008 the Society has now moved to the new Middleton Arena, with which we look forward to a long association.