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Our History

The beginnings

BATS – the British American Theatrical Society – was founded on 4 March 1956, when English speaking members of the Cercle Laetitia Company (CLC) decided to form their own company with the express purpose of performing British and American plays in the English language.


In order to raise the necessary funds, members would 'tour' the local bars and cafes delighting mainly Flemish audiences with impromptu sketches and singing. Within seven weeks of BATS being formed their first play, Murder Without Crime by J. Lee Thomson, was performed on 28th April. It was apparently performed in the auditorium of the, now defunct, General Motors building on the Noorderlaan.

In the early days BATS productions were performed for one night only, with the exception of the annual pantomime. The first pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, was staged over three performances in 1958, and started an unbroken tradition to today (apart from, yes, COVID). These first pantomimes were often written by club members.


Over the years, BATS has maintained a tradition of staging some four shows per season. More recently it has also staged variety shows, and hosted other companies’ productions in its clubhouse (at least when we had one). The club also organises Open Evenings, not only for club members, but also for other people interested in learning more about BATS, or just having a chat in English.


In this way the club has become much more than just an activity for expatriates. While English remains our club language, today’s membership is made up not only of expatriates, but also by locals and other nationalities, whatever their mother tongue.


Since 1976, BATS has also played a major role in the organisation of FEATS, an annual festival dedicated to English-speaking theatre from all over mainland Europe. 

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