Tuesday, 01 December 2015

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Volunteers and grants save Cumbrian theatre from closure

A Workington theatre facing the threat of closure has been saved thanks to the hard work of volunteers and grants worth more than £40,000.

Pat Brinicombe photo
Pat Brinicombe in the theatre

The Playgoers announced in July 2011 that the Theatre Royal on Washington Street was facing the final curtain because of a shortage of cash and volunteers.

But after a nearly two years the group fighting for its survival has completely turned its fortunes around.

Pat Brinicombe, theatre publicity officer, said: “I can safely say that we have turned a corner.

“I don’t think it would even be considered now that there would be any danger of it closing.”

The Playgoers’ move to employ a private consultant has proved decisive in their bid to save the theatre.

James Watson, of Natural Regeneration based at Gamblesby, near Penrith, worked on behalf of the group to attract vital funding.

“His work has been instrumental in getting a lot of the money,” said Geoff Brinicombe, the Playgoers’ technical director.

“We have enough money to put the boiler in and do the render.

“It’s wonderful news. Both Pat and I want to leave the theatre warm and upgraded.”

The Playgoers needed more than £50,000 for a new boiler to heat the auditorium.

It was feared that the boiler could break down at any time and prevent the group from putting on winter performances.

The theatre’s cash reserves were also hit by falling attendance following the floods of 2009 which stranded many theatre-goers for several months.

The situation was so desperate that the group’s committee considered selling some of its assets, including old costumes on eBay. Of the money which will be used to carry out the essential works, £5,000 came from Joe Holliday’s county councillor member’s fund; £8,000 from the Cumbria Waste Management Environment Trust (CWMET), £15,000 from E.ON; and £3,000 from the The Hadfield Charitable Trust. Independent grant-making trust the Foyle Foundation has pledged £10,000, while the Playgoers has itself made a further £7,000 via ticket sales and fundraising events.

In addition to this, the Playgoers are in talks to attract a further £30,000.

Volunteers are always needed for acting, bar work, promotion and other activities.


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