THEATRE groups wanting to enter next year’s one-act play festival can do so free of charge.

The 66th Harold Jolliffe One-Act Play Festival will be held in April 2013 and for the first time the organisers have done away with entry fees.

It is hoped it will make it easier for amateur actors to enter and, without having to pay to perform, it will potentially allow them to make a profit from selling tickets.

The festival consists of a series of plays, each shorter than one hour and the chance to see three plays will cost audience members £10.

Festival director Ashley Heath said they didn’t have any other choice but go down a new financial route in order to keep the festival running.

He said: “We decided to enter uncharted territory, but we’ve been forced to due to the economic situation.”

“If we charged £100 to each company, no one would make a profit.

“Profit isn’t a dirty word – it’s about survivability.”

Swindon Arts Centre, the venue for the festival, has increased the amount it charges festival organisers by 100 per cent in the past two years.

Ashley said: “We lurched from year to year, without questioning the next appearance, but there were inefficiencies in the organisation and it needed a radical rethink.”

He said the committee wanted to guarantee more people through the door, with each session having a minimum audience number of 60.

He said: “Companies prefer a higher entry fee over support, but it doesn’t work like that.

“We have to get companies to engage in building audiences – we can survive if companies bring 20 people.”

So far, two companies have already signed up for the festival, despite entries only opening on August 1.

Last years winners, Whole Hog Productions, performed an adaptation of Chekhov’s Swan Son, entitled The final act of Henry Gladstone.

The festival has been running since 1947, and is named after Swindon’s post-war chief librarian, who set up the town’s Arts Centre in 1946, although at the time it was in a church hall in the centre of Swindon.

Amateur companies can apply to enter the festival until December 1. Go to hj1act or email Ashley at