Thanet is blessed
with having a number of theatres that put on a variety of professional and
amateur shows, concerts and workshop activities throughout the year. Whether
you want to be a spectator or participant there is something for everyone.
As an historical
seaside resort providing evening entertainment for residents and visits, Margate still has three
theatres – the Theatre Royal which is the second oldest theatre in the country,
Tom Thumb which is the smallest and the Winter Gardens Theatre that produces a
variety of entertainment and facilities - everything from big name artists to
RoyalThe historic Grade
II listed Theatre Royal is worth a visit – if only to see the Baroque style
interior and original features. It was initially built in 1787 and
substantially refurbished in 1874 to become a Victorian theatre as opposed to a
Georgian boxed playhouse. It is also famous for producing the first drama
school in the country, opened by Sarah Thorne in 1885.
You can see a variety of entertainment from music to comedy and amateur productions to a Christmas show. In latter years the theatre has become a magnet for the local communities and east Kent artists to develop and take part in artistic creativity. This includes regular workshops helping nurture a family friendly approach and improve the well being of the residents by involving them in various stage related activities.
The Winter GardensThe Winter Gardens opened in 1911 and included a concert hall, two wings and an amphitheatre. Initially music and dance was the main focus but in the 1920s the summer show came to Margate and has continued in various forms ever since. Even today there is great family entertainment available during the summer months, interspersed with a variety of artists such as Graham Norton, Jimmy Carr and David Essex as well as bands, theatrical productions and amateur dramatics. There is everything on offer throughout the year at the Winter Gardens - from wine tastings to Postman Pat!
During its heyday in the 1960s, the entertainers performing at the Winter Gardens read like a Who’s Who in entertainment. At that time you would have been able to see Helen Shapiro, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas and even the Beatles made an appearance early in their career. An event celebrated 50 years on this year (2013) with a terrific performance from the Bootleg Beatles.
Tom Thumb TheatreFor something really different take a trip to the Tom Thumb Theatre in Cliftonville. As one of the smallest theatres in the world it is inevitable that the entertainment can sometimes be a little off beat and quirky but it hosts a variety of theatre, music and comedy and is a family run arts venue. Originally a Victorian coach house, it was transformed into a theatre in 1984 so it is not just the entertainment that is slightly ‘alternative’. The design is an interesting mix of Japanese and Alpine architecture while the décor reminds one a little of an old fashioned Indian restaurant with velvet seats and flocked wallpaper. However, the recent addition of a somewhat ramshackle cocktails-out-of-jam-jars bar intriguingly named the Fin Bar, provides an added reason for a visit and definitely a place to relax during the interval.
Other evening activities
Margate has a raft of bars and restaurants available covering all tastes and budgets, from the delightful Italian/Greek Georgios – run by the same Greek Cypriot family since the 1950s - between the clock tower and the high street, to the Indian style Ambrette in Hawley Street and the seafront Harbour Café, Hoy and The Sands hotel. There is also a night club and a casino for later in the evening.
Ramsgate Granville TheatreYou will find the charming Granville Theatre and cinema on the East Cliff, overlooking Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour. It provides great stage and screen entertainment with a selection of current films available and the theatre offering a very varied programme of professional and amateur theatre productions including plays, musicals, individual artists such as very popular local girl Mandy Winters and Chas and Dave. The highlight of the season is the Christmas Pantomime – adored by children and adults alike and, with Brenda Blethyn of ‘Vera’ fame as the patron, you might even want to become involved with the theatre as a ‘friend’ and/or helper.
Kings TheatreThe Kings’ Theatre is near the centre of town and provides shows and activities for the community such as the local ‘Make Me A Star’ competition, talks about Ramsgate’s history and a seniors’ club once a week.
In front of the Royal Harbour and the Ramsgate Marina, are a wonderful selection of bars, cafes and restaurants – from the intriguing Belgian Bar at one end to the French restaurant on the upper terrace past the Temple Yacht Club on the other. In between you have so many pavement eateries to choose from that, on sunny days or balmy summer evenings you can spend a lazy day just trying them all.
Broadstairs Sarah Thorne Theatre ClubYou can’t really go wrong when the patrons of your theatre club are Judi Dench and David Suchet. The Sarah Thorne Theatre Club at the Memorial Theatre, Hilderstone Adult Education Centre in Broadstairs was formed to present quality professional plays, music and theatre in Broadstairs, creating a theatre available for local community use. From Gilbert and Sullivan to Murder Mystery Evenings, concerts to pantomimes and charity events to amateur theatricals, there is always something interesting on offer.
Sarah Thorne was talented and versatile actress and theatre manager in the mid to late 1800s and she went on to manage the Theatre Royal in Margate where she formed the first acting school in the country.