National spotlight for theatre

Stand-up comedian and Theatres Trust Ambassador Jack Dee with Bruce Knight of Session House CIC.
Stand-up comedian and Theatres Trust Ambassador Jack Dee with Bruce Knight of Session House CIC.

A multi-million pound project to restore Spilsby Theatre has received national recognition for the role played by the community in making it progress.

The scheme was featured at the launch of the Theatres At Risk Register for 2019, held at the recently refurbished Alexandra Palace Theatre, in London.

Alexandra Palace Theatre (Photo by Lloyd Winters).

Alexandra Palace Theatre (Photo by Lloyd Winters).

This annual list, compiled by the Theatres Trust, highlights and supports theatres under threat of closure, redevelopment or demolition across the UK.

Spilsby Theatre was one of four theatre renovation projects featured at the event, each at a different stage of development.

It was chosen as an example of how community support can make such schemes progress.

Bruce Knight, managing director of the Session House CIC, the organisation behind the Spilsby Theatre restoration project, spoke at the event on the subject.

He said: “I spoke about how in 2017 the theatre had to be completely closed, but by gathering significant support from the local community we were able to do some basic maintenance, enabling one small room in the building to become operational.

“As a result, in 2018 we were able to host 148 events in our ‘lounge’. This was only achieved because our ‘Friends’ membership scheme helped to raise funds, materials were donated and people, including skilled tradespeople, volunteered their time.”

The event also saw architecture advisor for the Theatres Trust Claire Appleby highlight and praise the work being done by the Sessions House.

Bruce explained why this is significant for Spilsby, saying: “There is funding out there for restoring community assets like theatres, but there are a lot of different organisations competing for it. Projects from all around the UK are chasing the same funding pots as us, so it’s essential we make a good case. By demonstrating community support and receiving recognition from national bodies like the Theatres Trust, we are showing funders that their investment is worth it.

“The acknowledgement of what has been achieved in Spilsby is really something for the town to be proud of. It says a lot about the spirit of the local community and the desire people have to see their theatre fully functioning again.”

Actor, stand-up comedian, writer and Theatres Trust Ambassador Jack Dee was the opening speaker at the Theatres At Risk conference.

He said: “Nothing comes close to the thrill of live performance, either as a performer or as an audience member – and the unique buildings where this magic happens should be treasured. Restoring and maintaining theatres is not cheap, but it is worth the investment.”

Looking to the future, meetings with Heritage Lottery and the Architectural Heritage Fund are being planned for the spring to progress funding.

Bruce said the next task is to fund the development phase, which includes detailed design work and obtaining planning permission.

“There is still a lot to do before any construction work begins,” he said. “Projects like this do take several years due to the funding process and the nature of architectural heritage.”

Bruce encouraged people to continue attending fundraising events and to join the ‘Friends’ membership scheme.

Details can be find at www.thesessionshouse.co.uk or on Sessions House leaflets in town.

Spilsby’s pantomime is also supporting the project; £1 from every ticket sold for the SLAPS production of ‘Cinderella’ is going to the scheme. The show is being performed at King Edward VI Academy from March 19 to 23. Tickets can be purchased from The Green House, Spilsby Market Place or online via Eventbrite search ‘Spilsby’.