Campus West celebrates its 50th anniversary!

Campus West when it first opened

Next month sees the 50th anniversary of Campus West in Welwyn Garden City.

The complex originally consisted of a theatre-cinema, a large exhibition hall known as the ‘glasshouse’ and a banqueting hall with customers paying £3 to go to the Christmas Ball and £2 to attend dinner dances.  On Mondays it was ‘strict tempo’, ‘free and easy’ on Tuesday afternoons and by Wednesday it was ‘swinging’!

Campus west 50th anniversary news and views 1973 

By the 1980’s, dinner dances were a thing of the past and the banqueting hall was turned into a stylish nightclub called ‘West One’.  The nightclub had a capacity for 800 people with DJs such as BBC Radio 1’s Steve Wright playing the tunes.  West One had Welwyn Hatfield’s longest bar and was very popular with local clubbers right up until 1998 when the club closed and the space was then used for conferences.

In 1987, the large ‘glasshouse’ exhibition hall was turned into roller skating rink, ‘Roller City’, with a purpose-built rink laid.  To this day, Roller City is the only roller skating rink of its kind in Hertfordshire, with the venue also used for dance and fitness classes.

Over the years, many notable performers have trodden the boards of the Campus West stage in what was then called the Hawthorne Theatre, including actors Timothy West, Simon Callow and Charlie Drake to name but a few.  2023 saw the return of live on stage performances at Campus West, beginning with the highly acclaimed ‘Best in Comedy’ show in November which was a sell out.  More live on stage performances are planned for 2024 including amongst others another ‘Best in Comedy’ show on 24 February, the ‘Elton John Tribute Show’ on 25 May and special school holidays shows ‘The Three Little Pigs’ on 19 February and ‘Cartoon Circus Live’ for the young ones on 8 April.

Then there are the timeless pantomime performances that have graced Campus West’s stage for years.  The shows appeal to all ages with this year’s production none other than the tale of ‘Robin Hood’, a nod to the very first pantomime staged by Campus West.  There’s also the now famous Blue Panto, ‘Robin - Keep on Riding!’, which is strictly for adults only!

As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations, a special display has been mounted throughout the Campus West building, taking visitors on a nostalgic journey through the years with old photographs, autographed promotional posters, newspaper cuttings, marketing materials and props from past shows.

Campus west 50th anniversary dame flora robson


Film enthusiasts have also been enjoying screenings of some undeniably classic films from 1973 onwards as part of the ‘Monday Night Classics’ series including recent showings of The Sting, The Exorcist and Live and Let Die.

Today, Campus West prides itself on offering world-class entertainment with a local, independent feel.  Its state-of-the-art cinema screens boast the best in modern sound and projection technology, where audiences can enjoy the latest movie releases as well as smaller, independent classics.  It also offers ‘Event Cinema’ screenings showing international theatre, music, ballet, opera and exhibitions on the big screen including performances from the National Theatre, the Royal Opera House, the Met Opera, the Royal Shakespeare Company and hit shows from the heart of London's West End.  ‘Soft Play City’ offers three distinctive soft play zones from ages 0 to 8, while Humphrey’s café and lounge offers comfortable sofas and an attractive outdoor balcony with an all-day food and drink menu, making it the perfect place to relax before or after shows and activities.  

Cllr Max Holloway, Executive Member for Community and Leisure, said:

Campus West holds a special place in the memories and lives of so many of us in Welwyn Hatfield.  It has been an indispensable part of our community for 50 years and the way that the venue has successfully adapted to changing times is a real testament to the dedication and support of everyone that has worked at or visited Campus West over the years.  I can’t wait to keep enjoying all that Campus West has to offer.  Here’s to the next 50!

To book your tickets for ‘Robin Hood’ or for more information on showtimes, screenings, skating and soft play sessions, please visit the Campus West website

Published: 30th November 2023