post World War II
Modern background: post World War II
In December 1946 a meeting was called to discuss the future of the Festival, and the first post-war Festival was held in 1947, with Lionel Salter as one of the adjudicators.
In 1948 Dr Eric Thiman was an adjudicator: he was to come again in 1957 to judge both the Vocal and Instrumental classes.
Since the war, the Festival has changed in many ways. The number of choirs has declined, partly because there is now much less singing in Primary schools, and also because most of the private schools which entered the Festival have closed. Before and for some time after the war, there were at least ten boys' preparatory schools in Thanet - five of them in Broadstairs. Two of the past Chairmen of the Festival were connected with these schools: Mrs Freebairn-Smith, whose husband was the Headamaster of Cliftonville School, and Patrick Williams, for many years Music Master at Stone House.
During the 60s and 70s there was a large increase in the amount of instrumental music in schools, and the classes were altered to accommodate this. In 1972, described as the Festival's 45th year, Piano, Instrumental, Speech & Drama and Vocal & Choral classes were all roughly the same size. By then the word "competitive" had been dropped and the word "drama" inserted in the name of the Festival.
Since then the Speech & Drama section has expanded; both Choral and Instrumental sections are now smaller as is the Piano section. Country Dancing has disappeared (reflecting its demise in schools) but has been replaced by "Dance in Education", a non-competitive section. 1989 saw the first classes for "Theatre" dance; now the biggest section.
We have had excellent Adjudicators, some very well-known, others less so. Olive Raven once mentioned that Isobel Baillie came one year, but I can find no record of this. Michael Head came twice to judge the Vocal and Choral classes; Stuart Robertson (Anna Neagle's brother) came in 1953; Douglas Hopkins, who had been Organist of Canterbury Cathedral, came in 1958; much more recently we have had Jeanne and Marguerite Dolmetsch to judge the Instrumental classes.
For 28 years the Festival's President was the Rt Hon. Edward Heath, MP. At a meeting of the Executive Committee in 1960 the Honorary Secretary read a letter from Mr Heath who "accepted the Presidency and [would] try to visit the Festival". He remained our President until 1988 when Mr Roger Gale MP kindly took over.
Fashions have come and gone: we no longer have percussion bands or accordian bands, but we do have brass groups and jazz bands. I wonder what the Thanet Music and Drama Festival of 2071 will be like?
The above was based on a 1971 article by James Gillespie, the then Chairman.
Since the article above was written, the Festival has continued to evolve. In 2000 it entered the digital age with this website, and we hope to continue filling in gaps in the past history while developing into the future.