The Barn Theatre,
25 Bluehouse Lane, Oxted, Surrey
RH8 0AA.

Tel: 01959 561811
Email: barntheatre


Southern Counties Drama Festival



Theatre Info


Around the Barn



John Simmons - Patron (appointed 2024)

John moved to Surrey in 1973 and within two years joined Merstham Amateur Dramatic Society (MADS) and Reigate Amateur Dramatic Society (RATS). He soon fell in love with drama festivals, becoming RATS representative for the Betchworth Festival in 1979. He became Treasurer of the Festival in 1982, a post which he held until 1985 when he became Chairman. He was Chairman until 2005, running the Festival with his great friend and Secretary Betty Bristow.

John was also Divisional Chairman of festivals held both at the Ashcroft Theatre, Croydon and the Secombe Centre, Sutton and Area Representative for many years.

Johnís other great love is antiques of which he is an avid collector and through this he has been involved in dressing many sets. John also enjoys reading, music of many different styles, visiting friends and is thrilled to be asked to be Southern Counties Drama Festival Patron, re-connecting with old friends and making new ones at the Barn.

Diana Drysdale - 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)

Jill 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!

The 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