Theatrical Entertainments Expo in Sandymount

St John’s Church, Park Avenue, Sandymount, will mark Heritage Week 2022 with a display featuring amateur dramatic societies and choirs that appeared on stage at the former St John’s Church Hall from its opening in 1883 until 1963, when it was closed.

The display will be on view in the church on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th August between 12 noon and 4pm, and on Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st August, also from 12 noon to 4pm each day.

St John’s Hall was built on land leased from the Earl of Pembroke for “purposes ancillary to the church and for meetings connected therewith, and for the schools belonging thereto.” Records show that the Hall was actively used by many church, community and local groups at different times throughout its history. The Hall was once a hive of cultural activity, bustling with a packed programme of meetings, classes, bazaars, exhibitions, concerts, and what were termed “theatrical entertainments”.

The display recalls several groups that performed in the Hall or used it for rehearsals including the St John’s Society (1883-1899), the Pembroke Choral Society (1886-1895), the Pembroke Players (1919-1939), the Park Avenue Players (1941-1955) and the Dublin Religious Drama Group (1946-1965).

Individual musicians, conductors and actors are remembered, some of whom went on to pursue professional careers on stage and in the media. The groups also provided a meeting place for young people: many a romance blossomed at St John’s Hall!

The Hall ceased to be used for theatrical entertainments after 1963 when it was sold by the church. It became a School of Fencing. It is now awaiting restoration and redevelopment by the new owners.

The principal sources of information for the display are newspaper archives: national and Dublin newspapers gave extensive coverage of amateur productions in their theatre and music columns. Church and family records and personal reminiscences are also utilised.