BATS has a long history. It was formed in 1967 under its original name, St Teilo’s Amateur Dramatic Society (STADS), by a group of like-minded local Christians with thespian leanings, with the intention of bringing live theatre to Bishopston village (population around 1,700) and its surroundings.
STADS itself had grown out of the original St Teilo’s Dramatic Society, which was formed in the 1920s to perform Passion and Nativity plays and pantomimes (with many local children participating in the latter). However, as Church membership dwindled, the Passions, Nativities and pantomimes disappeared, but enthusiasm for murder mysteries and comedies grew, and from 1967 the group began putting on two plays a year, one in spring, one in autumn — a practice which continues today.
Since that time only five productions have had to be cancelled, mostly because of actor shortages! The only serious occasion was in 2000-01, when two consecutive productions were cancelled, and the possibility of folding arose. Happily, though, the group recovered and the autumn 2007 production The Shell Seekers was the 86th, and marked the group’s 40th anniversary.
The group has always rehearsed and performed in St Teilo’s Church Hall in Bishopston. The Hall is very convenient for local audiences, with plenty of nearby parking, but slightly less than 100% ideal for amdram purposes: though seating capacity is reasonable, at 80, the stage itself is only 17 feet wide by 13 feet deep! This means that access behind the scenery from one side of the stage to the other is usually impossible, and actors have at times had to resort to leaving the building to get around the other side! There is also only one backstage room, which consequently has to serve as changing room, ‘green room’ and kitchen. Incredibly, building works over the years have made the Hall larger than it used to be in the pre-STADS era…
In 1999 the Society’s name was changed to BATS to reflect the fact that membership or attendance of the Church had long since ceased to be a prerequisite for joining.
Nevertheless, given the long association with the Church, the Society has always taken care to put on plays that are less likely to offend the many churchgoers in the audience. So far there have been no performances of works by Dennis Potter or Harold Pinter! On the other hand, all plays chosen to date have come from the 20th century, a pleasant mixture of the orthodox amdram repertoire and recently written/published works by authors quite possibly unknown to the audience. (Costume dramas, however, are usually avoided (Jane Eyre being a notable exception): to a small group like BATS, hire of costumes is prohibitively expensive.)
On the Internet
In 2004 BATS went ultra-modern and finally got its own website. Dorothy Morris, a member of the group since January 1968 (involved in every production since then and still going strong!), had amassed a collection of programmes and photographs (many of very high quality from the South Wales Evening Post) that provided an almost complete record of every production STADS and BATS had put on. These were passed to a masochistic volunteer who duly typed up all the details of every programme, scanned in and edited dozens of photos, and turned the lot into these very webpages. Towards the end of 2007 the website was given a more ‘modern’ appearance and all of the HTML code was rewritten, both to make it easier to download to mobile phones (well, you never know), and to prepare for a Welsh-language version of the entire site (see below).
BATS in Welsh
In February 2008 a translation of the entire website into Welsh was completed, and BATS now had one of the most detailed amdram sites available in the language. With very few exceptions, all the Welsh-language pages are exact translations of the English ones, and the site structure is identical.
In any case, the website has given BATS, Bishopston and the local area a permanent public record of a significant part of their local recent cultural history.