(Taken from 1998 programme item by Trevor Wiffen)
Although the Society was founded in 1923, it owes its existence to the inspiration of its founder Mr. E. G Hodgkison who, as Music Master at the Crewe County Secondary School in Ruskin Road, was responsible for a highly successful performance of The Mikado in 1921. This, and an equally successful performance the following year of H.M.S. Pinafore, was a school performance by pupils and staff. Having realised that there was a ready and eager audience for further productions, but that they would place too great a strain on normal school academic life, Mr. Hodgkison was instrumental in bringing about the formation of the Crewe County Secondary School Old Students Association Amateur Operatic Society. This almost impossibly long title soon became abbreviated to “The Old Studs”.
The success of the early productions was such that the original venue, the old Town Hall (a building which has long since disappeared), was found to be inadequate and so the decision was taken to move to Crewe Theatre (The Lyceum Theatre as we know it today). Although the Society’s officials at the time were a little apprehensive at such a move, this proved to be the start of a long and happy relationship with the Theatre. That relationship has continued to this day with only two enforced breaks; the first from 1939 to 1946 courtesy of a certain Mr. Hitler, and the second in 1994 when the Lyceum closed for its transformation into the fine building we have today, and we moved temporarily to the Danebank Theatre at the South Cheshire College.
Two changes in name have also taken place. The first, after the war, was simply to reflect the change in the name of the school itself from Secondary School to Grammar School. The second was in 1978 when the general introduction of comprehensive education meant that the old Grammar School had ceased to exist and the membership of the Society had also gradually changed to the extent that only a small proportion of members were actually “Old Students”. It was with a certain degree of sadness then that the decision was made to change the name to Crewe Amateur Operatic Society. It doesn’t have the same distinctive ring to it as the old full title, but it has probably saved quite a bit on printing costs! Nevertheless one still occasionally hears the Society affectionately referred to as “The Old Studs”
Another change which has sadly come about over the years has been from the original aims of raising money to donate to local deserving charities, to the Society itself becoming a registered charity and striving each year to ensure that the cost of production is matched by income from ticket and programme sales, advertising, sponsorship and fund raising. The responsibility placed on the committee as they strive to achieve this balance is more and more becoming a heavy one.
To keep our audiences coming through the doors it is vital to give them plenty of variety. Tastes are of course so diverse that it is impossible to find a show which suits everyone and so it is important that we keep ringing the changes.
It is also essential that the performing members are considered when choosing a show. To these ends, therefore, in our 75 years the Society have performed 46 different shows in their 65 productions, and only 4 have been repeated for a second time.