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Our History

Who would have believed that the passionate efforts of one man, Richard Houghton, could have grown into what is regarded as the “biggest and best amateur drama festival in the UK”?  In 2003 Richard was responding to a vicious press description of Leatherhead High Street as “one of the worst in the UK”.  He decided to put Leatherhead firmly on the culture map and gathered together a group of local minds, similarly passionate about live theatre and the Leatherhead Drama Festival Committee was born. The first Leatherhead Drama Festival was staged, to great critical acclaim in May 2004. Sir Michael Caine CBE was also persuaded by Richard, not only to add his name to the quirky ‘Italian Job’ trophies but, to attend the festival and present the awards to the winners. The looks of pure pleasure and excitement on the faces of the trophy recipients at the Gala Awards Nights have always been a joy to behold - their moment of pride and glory on the big stage.

Sadly Richard did not live to see the second drama festival but Richard’s name lives on with our Richard Houghton Awards for Outstanding Contribution to the Drama Festival. David Brett succeeded by Wilf Hashimi (Retd.2018)

Sir Michael Caine CBE

The moment Sir Michael said that he would put his name to the drama awards at the Leatherhead Drama Festival back in 2004; we knew the festival was going to be a success. His long career started when he was an assistant stage manager at Horsham in Sussex but he came to fame starring in the film Zulu in 1964.

Since then Sir Michael has appeared in over 115 films, received six Oscar nominations – he won two - and was awarded a BAFTA and Golden Globe Award for his role as Frank in Educating Rita.

To enjoy the patronage of such a respected British film icon and for him to present our awards has been truly inspiring.

During one festival awards evening, when discussing amateur dramatics, Sir Michael quipped; “amateur, that’s from the word ‘amour’ – love. I was once an amateur, I used to act for love. Now I act for love – and for money.” However, he replied to a recent suggestion that it might be time to retire with: “I go to work now when I feel like it, not to make a living. It’s got to be fun. It’s been my life and it’s what I have always wanted to do. I love making movies”. And making movies he still is.

Although Sir Michael Caine stepped down from being our patron in 2016 the main festival awards still bear his name and we are eternally grateful for his support over the years and the encouragement he has given to all those who have participated in the festival either on stage or off.