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'Extraordinary' history of Astor Theatre in Stanhope Road, Deal, will feature in new book

By Beth Robson

A Book on the history of the Astor Theatre could be published.

Artistic director James Tillitt was inspired by the stories and memories the people of Deal have been sharing with him since he took over five years ago.

James Tillitt from the Astor Theatre, Del

He is working closely with the Addelam History Research Group on the project and hopes to install an exhibition and a touch screen kiosk in the theatre too - subject to funding.

He said: “The plan is that will then become a resource to the town and with all the different groups who have used the building over the years; the amateur companies, the marines who have now come back, and we are having an annual pantomime with them, and just a general sort of realisation of just what an extraordinary history this building has.”

“The plan is that will then become a resource to the town," James Tillitt director, Astor Theatre.

The theatre has been in the town since 1906 and was originally called Stanhope Hall. The building was used mainly for classical musical recitals and public speaking, usually on the evils of alcohol.

The building was renamed the Winter Gardens in 1915 because the area which is now the car park was used for open air events in the summer and in the winter it was flooded and used as an ice rink.

In the 1920s the Astor family acquired the building and just after the war in 1945 they handed it over to the town in recognition of the courage and fortitude of the people of Deal during the Second World War.

The building was named the Astor Hall in tribute to the family and later became the Astor Theatre.

Mr Tillit has been collecting photographs, old play bills, programmes and stories from theatre goers. Highlights include photos of Noel Coward in the Astor auditorium and programmes signed by him too.

He is keen to gather more material, in particular from its earliest period in the 1900s, as he is yet to find out how such a small town like Deal came to have a concert hall.

If you think you can help with the book or would like to share an interesting experience you have had at the Astor, Mr Tillitt would like to hear from you.

Please email james@theastor.org or 01304 370220.

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