is a well-known journalist and TV presenter of the news, on the BBC News Channel
and BBC One. He was born in London and initially educated at Hamsey Green Primary
School just up the hill from the Barn Theatre. He began his journalistic career
at the Surrey Mirror in 1964, soon moving to Fleet Street and thereafter switching
to television reporting in 1981, since when he has become a household name. He
moved from the BBC to ITN and after having been there for over 20 years he returned
to the BBC in 2007 where he continues to present news and current affairs programmes.
As a Strictly Come Dancing contestant he was voted off in the first week of the
show in 2006 which he felt confirmed the news desk was the best place for him.
a member of Reigate Amateur Theatrical Society (RATS) he enjoyed the live stage
and has taken part in this festival and on the Barn stage, as a competitor, when
in 1977 he won the Best Actor Award in Two Gentlemen of Soho.
- Vice Patron (appointed 2020)
Diana 'got the bug'
for performing' when her childhood dancing school put her on stage at
the Scala Theatre in London in 1947, playing Pan. After leaving school
she had two
years with East Surrey Operatic Society as a dancer but acting being
her preferred activity, she joined Merstham ADS in 1958. MADS were founder
members of the Betchworth Drama Festival (as SCDF was originally called)
and she appeared in many of their entries. Her husband-to-be, Peter,
was recruited by his father, Roy Drysdale, to stage manage at Merstham
in 1964 and they joke that they first met up a ladder on the stage there!
Roy achieved 'Best Actor' in the Festival in 1964 and although she hoped
to follow with 'Best Actress', she only achieved a couple of nominations!
However, she acted in and directed many MADS entries over the years
and they achieved Best Set, a couple of Best Supporting Actors and a
Best Actress, so she didn't do too badly! Peter and Diana ventured to
Horley Archway Theatre, where she played in the amateur premier of the
two-hander "Rattle of a Simple Man". After seven years 'exile' in Portsmouth
for Peter's work, they returned to MADS in 1974 and she performed in
many of their productions, including entries in the now defunct Croydon
Drama Festival of Full Length Plays and productions in Redhill's Harlequin.
She also appeared with RATS (Reigate Amateur Theatre Company, which
was initially formed from MADS Members) and St. Marks Players. A couple
of years ago she helped Bletchingley Players out of a predicament by
playing a batty old lady in hair rollers - a part she felt eminently
suited for now that she says age has dulled her capabilities in the
learning lines area! She was flattered to be asked to be Vice Patron
of SCDF and is looking forward to being part of this very friendly contest.
Jill Perry -
Vice Patron (retired 2019)
was in her final year at school when she became a founder member of both the then
Student Players (now known as The Oxted Players) and the Oxted Operatic Society.
She met her husband Brian Styles when he was in charge of lighting for the Pantomime
in 1950, they were married in 1952 and continued to work together at the Barn
for many many years. During those years Jill played most of the leads in the Operatic
shows until a production of Iolanthe in 1957 when she was seven months pregnant
- definitely unsuitable for the part of Phyllis, a ward of court!
Betchworth Festival was always a highlight of the year and Jill was fortunate
to be mentioned in the runners up for Best Actress many times. Then in 1979 she
received the highest accolade as Best Actress for her portrayal as the maid in
A Respectable Establishment. The opening of the play was a solo performance by
the maid with two pages of monologue.
Now Jill still delights
in being present as part of the audience in the many productions staged
at the Barn Theatre and is delighted to be Vice-Patron of this festival
which has been brought back to the high standard that we enjoy today.
Nicholas and Jill
at the Diamond Jubilee of the SCDF