A COMMUNITY theatre that was rescued by dedicated volunteers was the worthy recipient of the Pride of our Valley title at Rossendale Business Awards. In 2016 Bacup Royal Court Theatre closed and many feared it may be the end of the century-old entertainment venue on Rochdale Road. Huge debts had been accrued with E.On for non-payment of gas and electricity supplies. A new committee was formed and a long-term payment agreement was set up.
The group now has charitable status and has three theatrical groups – Bacup Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society, Bacup Youth Theatre and Entertainment Society and Bacup Educational Stage Theatre School. All three put on productions. Director Juliette Shepherd, who runs BESTS, said: “I have been involved for about six years because I used to do stage make-up at university and I did drama as a GCSE. Receiving the Pride award means such a lot to the volunteers that have worked so hard.”
One of the biggest success stories in the last few years has been the introduction of tribute bands that have seen both stalls and circle packed; Juliette said now the agents contact the theatre group to book the venue. She said: “The committee wanted the theatre not just to reopen but to be a feature of Bacup. Lots of people who had been involved in the past came back to help and it has just been amazing. It has been immensely rewarding, a lot of hard work but we managed to do it.”
The front of the theatre has recently been refurbished thanks to help from many volunteers and the generous support of businesses. The upstairs ladies toilets have been modernised and stalls’ seating is being upgraded on a rolling programme.
Last year’s pantomime Dick Whittington won six Association of Community Theatre awards.
Juliette said: “Having tickets on sale in the centre of Bacup at Wishes Galore has helped and when the tribute bands play, we get people travelling from all over the country to watch the performances. Paranormal nights are still proving very popular and we are staging Brassed Off in September and our next pantomime is Sleeping Beauty. Bytes will be performing A Christmas Carol, BESTS will be staging its first solo production Peter Pan and next year we will stage Evita. We are now approached by agents whose performers have also been on stage in Manchester and other big cities.”
Nominations for the 2018 awards, organised by Valley at Work which connects local businesses, are open now until September 19. Once nominated, businesses select which categories they would like to enter.
Story by Catherine Smyth