In 1923, an article was published in the Surrey Mirror that detailed an exciting new project: the erection of a performance venue in the town of Oxted. It was to be called the Barn Theatre. Designed to serve the communities of Oxted, Limpsfield and surrounding parishes, the Barn was to act as a central location for ‘public and social functions in the district’.
The theatre opened its doors in the spring of 1924 and was an instant success. Soon a hub of immense activity, the popularity of the theatre was overwhelming. Since then, the communal love for the Barn has only grown.
Today, the Barn Theatre is one of the most thriving venues in Surrey. From rock concerts to pantomimes, flower shows to coffee mornings, the theatre has provided the backdrop for almost a century of entertainment.
Though totally committed to supporting local groups and performers, the Barn is also no stranger to well-known entertainers. Acclaimed composer, Michael Tippett (CBE), and star of stage and screen, Flora Robson, both regularly performed at the theatre during the early stages of their career. At the end of the twentieth century, comedy legend Ronnie Corbett acted as a patron for the Barn 2000 improvement appeal. And more recently, a group of West End performers staged an A-Z of Musical Hits.
However, the theatre is not, and has never been, purely an entertainment venue. Rather, it offers itself as a central communal space, somewhere where local residents can come together for a variety of causes and events.
During the war, the Barn briefly relinquished its theatrical status and was transformed into an evacuee dispersal station, a billet for a Canadian regiment, and a school.
Despite the support regularly received from patrons, volunteers, and trustees, 2020 has been a difficult year for the theatre. Like the rest of the arts industry, COVID-19 has blocked most live performances and social gatherings at the Barn. Therefore, for the first time in almost a century, it has unwillingly had to shut its doors for a prolonged period.
However, in the face of challenge, the theatre has proudly staged a handful of performances since restrictions eased. The band Groove Hoover: A Tribute to Classical Rock Through the Ages put on a live-streamed event at the Barn in August. In September, The new Foxtrot Serenaders performed to a socially distanced audience, and a group from St. Mary’s school raised more than £2,700 for their students through their Chromatic Classical Extravaganza.
The success of these COVID-Secure performances has allowed the Barn to schedule more productions during the pandemic. Groove Hoover and comedian Bob Mills will grace the stage this November whilst The Really Happy Company and the Apollo Theatre Company will perform at the theatre in December.
To learn more about the history of the Barn or to book tickets for any upcoming events, please visit www.barntheatreoxted.co.uk.