IT was August 1924 when a new reporter on the Penarth Times expressed surprise in one of his articles that such a progressive town as Penarth was without an operatic and dramatic society, writes Penarth Operatic & Dramatic Society (PODS) president, Mary Gardner.

The response to his outcry was quickly taken up and within three weeks the Penarth Operatic Society was formed.

The Society’s first production was Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe, played at The Hippodrome which later burnt down, and what a glittering opening evening it must have been as the audience wore evening dress.

The review featured next day read, “Brilliant Initial Performance.”

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A few years later in 1928, the drama section came into being and with it a new title of the Penarth Operatic & Dramatic Society, known affectionately as PODS.

Since then PODS has progressed down through the decades with many highlights along the way.

One being in 1963 when PODS presented that great musical, The King And I, which won the premier prize at the Waterford International Festival, for which the company received a beautiful Waterford crystal vase.

The Town Council held a reception to honour the Society at the Paget Rooms, and James Callaghan, the local MP, paid his tribute to PODS saying it “added lustre and brought culture to Penarth”.

Another landmark was the play, Dear Octopus, by Dodie Smith produced for PODS 50th anniversary celebrations.

One of our most challenging and exciting shows was Cabaret in 2011, which won the National Operatic & Dramatic Association’s award for Best Production and Best Stage Management and Technical presentation.

More recently in 2018, to honour and pay tribute to the many men who gave their lives in World War One, PODS presented the very special play, Last Man Standing, which also won a NODA award for Best Drama.

In 1996, PODS decided to do pantomime, and this has been a greatly gratifying and popular addition to the company’s output.

It’s wonderful to see children in the cast having on-stage experience, and then those children in the audience, perhaps for the first time, enjoying and loving live theatre.

PODS is a very busy Society putting on four shows a year, a musical, two plays and a pantomime.

Mrs Gardner said: “This year, sadly and very upsettingly after much hard work by all involved, the covid-19 virus struck as PODS had just set-up at the Paget Rooms ready for its run of Goodnight Mister Tom, only to be told the venue would be shut down next day.

“Since January, the Society had also been rehearsing for its May musical, The Full Monty, and that too has had to be cancelled.

“Nevertheless, when this terrible emergency is over the company will put on these two productions sometime in the future. “

PODS is proud of its achievement in giving much pleasure and entertainment to the local community with its first-class shows over the last 96 years, and its goal is to make its centenary in 2024 with the help of its faithful audiences, friends and patrons.

PODS is always ready to welcome new members, but at the moment it cannot meet or rehearse due to the covid-19 restrictions.

It might be some time before restrictions are lifted on groups being able to rehearse together, or audiences allowed back in theatres, meanwhile PODS members keep in touch on social media.

There is a ‘PODS public group’ on Facebook, PODS quiz nights are being held on Zoom, and there is a website to keep track at