Fight to save Colne's 'Little Theatre'
When the curtains dropped on several Pendle productions at the beginning of the lockdown period in March, the effect on the theatres, production teams, directors, performers and audiences was devastating.
And the ongoing shutdown exacerbated by Tier 3 restrictions now in place leaves one local group fighting for the future of its theatre.
Colne Dramatic Society is raising funds to ensure that the building remains a safe environment for both CDS and visiting groups to perform in, and to ensure that it gets through this crisis and thrives in the future, when the virus is a distant memory.
Without new funds, the Little Theatre’s future is at risk.
Colne Dramatic Society had only just begun rehearsing the May play Man From Earth at the quaint Little Theatre down River Street in Colne the first lockdown started.
Director Steve Grist recalls how events in the entertainment industry that were unfolding as minutes went by.
He said: “I couldn’t believe it at first as the world seemed so normal, then a member of the cast telephoned to say he could not make a rehearsal because he was self-isolating – a term rarely in use at that point in March.
“Within a few hours, we heard about the huge musical production just up the road being halted at the dress rehearsal. We were shocked and very upset for them and the other societies too, as one by one productions closed down around Colne.”
Since then, of course, venues such as theatres have remained closed, and during this period of darkness, many have looked towards what can be done to protect theatres’ futures.
Prior to lockdown, CDS had already planned to start fundraising for the wonderful garden space to be created into a beautiful outdoor seating or performance area.
Discussions had already been had on how the theatre could be adapted to ensure that the venue was more easily accessible for disabled patrons and visiting groups: another toilet and ground floor facilities to compliment the garden make-over.
The bombshell of lockdown was swiftly followed by a wave of other realisations: the theatre building needs work. Desperately. Now, the focus of the committee lies on the future however, in order for the theatre to reopen when permitted to do so, money has now to be raised for the priority works – the electrical repairs, any building repairs, and the stage upgrades.
Crowdfunding has been put in place and CDS hopes that contributions will go some way towards paying for the immediate costs. A £20,000 target has been set and earlier this week – just a few days after the launch –almost £1,300 had been donated.
Any contributions can be made by going to www.gofundme.com and searching for the Little Theatre in Colne.
Steve Grist concluded: “With luck and your help, we will see you when the lights are once again turned on when the current crisis ends.”
CDS’s first production at the theatre was in September 1949.
Originally a stable block, the conversion took around four years to complete, and since then the popular Colne society has been putting on productions regularly.
The building has been loved by audiences for its charm as well as its importance as a community theatre and a hive of activity during the Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival, as The Acoustic Stage.
The Little Theatre has not only been the home of Colne Dramatic Society, it has provided a performing space for many visiting productions, such as those by the wonderful Stage Door Youth Theatre; the incredibly engaging Dean Taylor, a magician with words and a transfixing stage presence; John McCardle’s poignant book signing event and the exciting new Outcry Theatre Company.