BATS - Basingstoke Amateur Theatrical Society
Founded in 1958, BATS is a self-funded, not-for-profit amateur theatrical group that is run by volunteers who share a passion for musical theatre – whether on-stage or working behind the scenes.
The Society does not receive any form of ongoing financial support to fund the cost of staging productions or subsidise running costs. We rely on the ticket sales and programme sales from our strong following of loyal audience members from Basingstoke and the surrounding areas to remain operationally viable.
Over the years, BATS has established a reputation for staging musical theatre productions that are of an exceptional standard, using talent from in and around Basingstoke.
In the mid-1950s the fortunes of Basingstoke’s Haymarket Theatre were at a very low ebb and the future of the building itself was in serious jeopardy. Had it not been for a group of public-spirited local people, who generously invested private donations, and the formation of the Basingstoke Theatre Club (the forerunner of BATS), then the present Haymarket and the rich history of amateur and professional productions in the town might never have been.
Revues were presented in 1956 and 1957, then in 1958 the Basingstoke Theatre Club produced its first pantomime, Cinderella. From that time, amateur pantomime was established as a regular feature of the town’s theatre season – right up until 1994.
In 1959, fears over the future of the theatre remained a concern as the lease was due to expire. The Chairman Len Pegrum urged all theatre groups in the town to co-operate and “put on the maximum of entertainment to make this a most successful season. To sell more tickets, popular appeal must be the first consideration.” The Theatre Club decided to go all out to stage its first musical production, Chu Chin Chow. The total budget was £182!
With its 1960 production of The Vagabond King, the Theatre Club was renamed Basingstoke Amateur Theatrical Society – BATS.
In 1966, BATS staged its first classic American musical, South Pacific. It was a complete sell-out and people queued round the old town hall to get tickets. Its popularity set the pattern for the future choice of shows and was followed in 1967 by Oklahoma! which saw the appointment of the Society’s first professional director, Maeve Hewson. She was followed by several others, of which by far the most prolific is Ray Jeffery, who has been responsible for more than 50 productions to date.
1968 again saw BATS breaking new ground. My Fair Lady had completed its professional run in London’s West End and was released for amateur performance. BATS immediately applied for permission to perform and so became one of the first amateur companies in the world to stage the show.
The 1970s and 1980s were a hugely successful period for BATS and nearly every show was a sell-out. To quote Arthur Attwood (Basingstoke Gazette in 1979): “From small beginnings BATS have become one of the strongest and most competent Societies in the South of England, with a high standard of performance very exceptional for amateurs.”