The Vic-Wells Association started life as the Old Vic Association during the 1922-3 season. Lilian Baylis, who then managed the Old Vic, founded the organisation in the hope of building good social relations between audiences and performers at the Old Vic.
The Association had its own magazine, the Old Vic Magazine (which continued publication until the start of the Second World War) and held several large parties during the year: the Fancy Dress Party was so popular that it was held at the Albert Hall; the annual Twelfth Night Party included a ‘guess the weight of the twelfth night cake’ competition; Shakespeare’s birthday was always sold out months in advance and featured a host of famous Shakespearian performers doing famous speeches and scenes from Shakespeare.
In 1931, when Lilian Baylis re-opened the Sadler’s Wells theatre, the Association became the Vic-Wells Association and the magazine became The Vic-Wells Magazine. The Association's primary objective at that time was to support the activities of both theatres, and this is still the case, despite the fact that the two theatres have been managed independently for many decades.
The constitution of the Association defines the objectives as: “The promotion of opera, drama and ballet as carried on at the two theatres known as ‘The Old Vic’ and ‘Sadler’s Wells’, or any other theatres taken over by the Vic-Wells governors, and for the general development of the work begun there by Lilian Baylis".
Though the Vic-Wells governors no longer exist, and each theatre has its own governing board, the policies of Lilian Baylis continue, with the provision of a high standard of opera, ballet, and drama at prices which may be reasonably afforded by the population in the immediate vicinity of the theatres. Of course these days, many in the audience come from further away than Waterloo or Islington.
The following is a selection of pieces relating to the history of the association, the theatres & companies and the important individuals involved along the way.
The Timelines will give you an idea of key events, showing you an outline that you may wish to explore further.
Further information about Dame Ninette de Valois can be found on www.royalballetschool.org.uk