A History of HAODS

A History of HAODS


HAODS was conceived out of the enthusiasm of members of a Gilbert and Sullivan evening class at Horsham Night School.  In 1954, six people chipped in £1 each to stage The Desert Song. No bills could be paid until after the show finished, but with £6 in the kitty, they decided to break away from G & S and put on a different type of musical, armed with their dedication and total commitment to the idea.  Their love of the theatre gave them the confidence to stage the very first HAODS’ Production. Little did those early members realise the hundreds of people who would be able to take part in first class productions over the next 7 decades.

HAODS’ first production – The Desert Song – 1954

In the early days, everything was done in house – directing, producing, costumes, building of sets etc. HAODS performed lots of plays as well as the occasional pantomime. There was an agreement with the local Gilbert and Sullivan society that they would not perform G & S productions. The casts of these early HAODS  productions were large, with a great number of both men and women taking part.  They have always used a live orchestra.

Early rehearsals were at The Christian Life Centre Church on East Street before moving to the Station Hotel Horsham. Later there was great excitement when HAODS moved to a nissen hut, abandoned by the Army Bomb Disposal Unit, at the former army base in Broadbridge Heath. HAODS HOUSE was born!

When Tesco bought the whole area of land from Horsham District Council in the early 1980s, after much debate, the Council agreed to rehouse HAODS in excellent rehearsal rooms at the new Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre. They had a double height scenery dock, costume store, Green Room and a large rehearsal room and smaller rehearsal studio. As time progressed, HAODS settled into a routine of performing two full scale musicals a year at The Capitol Theatre together with the occasional play and outside entertainment.  In their 1972 and 1981 pantomimes Cinderella, they even had live ponies on stage!

Cinderella – 1981

HAODS productions were staged at the old Capitol theatre, which had been built in 1923 and stood in the centre of town. In 1983 the Council announced that the theatre was to be demolished to make way for a a new shopping centre – Swan Walk. HAODS carried banners around The Carfax and were very active in seeking local support for the future of the arts in Horsham. Eventually the Horsham Council agreed to convert the old Ritz cinema on North Parade into an arts centre, including theatre and it has been HAODS’ performance home ever since. The only exception to this was when the Horsham Arts centre was refurbished and relaunched. Whilst the Ritz was being converted HAODS staged Cockney Capers at the Drill Hall in 1983, and Aladdin and Chicago in 1984. This process was repeated in 2002 when the Horsham Arts Centre was refurbished and relaunched as The Capitol. In 2002 – 2003, HAODS performed Sweet Charity at Christ’s Hospital Theatre, and the revue, Golden Chords at the Drill Hall.

Source: https://www.thecapitolhorsham.com/information/about-us/our-history/

Source: https://www.thecapitolhorsham.com/information/about-us/our-history/

Source: https://www.thecapitolhorsham.com/information/about-us/our-history/

In 2013, Horsham District Council suddenly announced the planned closure of Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre. There was a huge public outcry and eventually they decided to rebuild the centre but HAODS were not included in their plans. Eventually HAODS were offered the old ambulance station in Hurst Road on a temporary basis. It was a huge task to sort through and cull costumes and props before the move to a smaller venue but they did it and with the help of so many members they set about making the ambulance station feel like home. They moved in in 2018 and have been very happy there. Only time will tell how long they will be allowed to stay there.

Over the years, HAODS has won several NODA awards. NODA is the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (UK). Many HAODS members have received long service medals from NODA:

Source: West Sussex County Times

In 2019 HAODS launched a new section for young people, appropriately named, HAODS Juniors. This vibrant group helps keep HAODS financially afloat, but also encourages youngsters to become active in acting, singing and dancing.

HAODS has been like a family for each generation of members.  There have been several real life marriages between members, and many children have appeared with their parents on stage. The group goes from strength to strength. HAODS are lucky to have so many members who work incredibly hard, in so many ways to keep this much loved Horsham group alive and flourishing.

Jane O’Sullivan

(With thanks to Mags Fisher for her input)

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