The Saviour of Pantomime
Nick Thomas has been nicknamed the King of Pantomime, he is passionate about the art and is head of Qdos Entertainment, the company which respectfully claims to be the world’s biggest pantomime producer, and has been happily staging pantomimes for over 35 years.
“Some people can get a bit sniffy about pantomime. Anyone who looks down on panto is a twat”
- Nick Thomas
In 1975 aged just 15 (although having lied about his age to Producers) Nick Thomas appeared on the ITV talent show New Faces with his act the Tommer Puppets. He won his heat and appeared on that series’ Winner’s Show a month later, alongside unknown talent including a certain Lenny Henry and the Chuckle Brothers.
Now fast forward to current day and Nick is a keen collector of memorabilia and in his office (or Grotto!) he even boasts an original Diddy Men marionette that was used on stage by Ken Dodd in 1965 and the original Lord Charles ventriloquist doll as well as actual Orville the Duck. He is also proud to be the Vice President of the Royal Variety Charity.
Qdos Entertainment is wholly owned by husband and wife entrepreneurs, Nick & Sandra Thomas. Nick created Qdos in 1999, and remains Chairman of the company, which is now one of the largest entertainment groups in Europe.
Thomas and his wife Sandra aim to watch as many of their annual pantomime productions as possible and often manage to see anything up to 24 pantos per year. Nick prides his company on putting on traditional pantos such as Dick Whittington, Jack and the Beanstalk and Aladdin but he is not afraid to try new things, he has previously even staged Robinson Crusoe in Space aswell as The Chuckle Brothers of Oz! Nick says he is thinking about pantomime all year through, he can easily plan a year in advance and already knows who and what will work best for the following panto season.
A proud moment came for Nick when he persuaded Hollywood leading lady and legendary diva Joan Collins to make her pantomime debut playing Queen Rat in Dick Whittington. You can't help escape the feeling that whomever Nick Thomas wants he gets!
The pantomimes are only a third of Nick's Qdos empire 0 he also owns a sting of successful regional theatres, puts on cruise shows, has a talent agency which represents some of the biggest names in show-business and he has also branched out into buying and renovating pubs.
Qdos has an office in London, of course, in the heart of Theatre-land on Drury Lane, not far from where that very first panto was staged in the 18th century. Thomas goes to the capital several times a week. (The family home is in Scarborough, but they also have a Covent Garden bolthole.) But it’s in the two northern centres where the military-style operation that keeps 24 pantos going for several weeks each year is currently being managed and rolled out.
In Beverley, East Yorkshire, there’s a massive warehouse where the scenery for the productions is stored. At Scarborough, alongside Nick’s office, are the costumes. There are 150,000 primary-coloured outfits on racks that disappear seemingly into infinity. By the loading-bay door is a series of blue wardrobes looking for all the world like a fleet of Tardises….very fitting for a Doctor Who fan!
Qdos employs some 1,500 people and while pantomime is only part of the overall business it is a very lucrative business and across the UK is is anticipated to bring in around £28 million per year. Nick says that he turns down offers to buy one or more elements of the business every year but he is not interested.
Despite the many distractions of modern life, pantomime continues to maintain a strong grip on the British imagination and audiences and Nick has made sure that his productions move with the times – there’s a hi-tech stage effects company called The Twins FX which provides what he cheerfully calls “the clutter” – wow-factor set-pieces such as flying cars, holographic genies, and beanstalks that grow before your eyes. Because it’s getting kids to sit down in front of a stage, there are sometimes lofty suggestions that panto, as base and slapstick as it is, gives children the theatre-going habit, and is in effect breeding the theatre-goers of the future.
Nick is a key fund-raiser for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital’s ‘Theatres for Theatres Appeal’ for which, through the tireless efforts of his HQ Theatres teams, and the generosity of pantomime audiences, and by 2016 he had raised over £855,000 in the past four years. Nick and his team at Adverset Media Solutions support ‘Heroes’ Welcome’ at all of the company’s sites.
In 2018 Nick appeared on a BBC documentary celebrating the life of Ken Dodd where he was able to showcase his collection of original Diddy Men puppets.