Bolton Little Theatre's race against time to buy home
BOLTON Little Theatre (BLT) is appealing for the public’s help to secure its future for generations to come.
The theatre has been running at its Hanover Street site for the past 80 years, but does not own the property.
BLT’s current 90 year lease of the building expires in 2051, after which time the property will be handed over to Bolton Lads and Girls Club (BLGC) unless the theatre group raises £90,000 to buy it.
If members raise the cash in the next 12 months, the trustees of BLGC have agreed they will waive their vested interest in the property and the Wigglesworth Trust, which controls the lease, has agreed to hand the remainder of the 999 year lease to BLT.
The group has already raised about £70,000 towards the purchase and wants to raise another £25,000 by the end of this year.
Elizabeth Tatman, Bolton Little Theatre chairman, said: “We have, so far, done quite well.
“We’ve put a sizeable amount of our reserve in because we always like to save for a rainy day.
“We’ve been donated some money from a couple of local charity trusts.
“We’ve been pledged £15,000 by the Garfield Weston Foundation, providing we raise the rest of the money.
“So far, from our members, we’ve had £8,000 donated — some very generous amounts among that.
"We don’t mind how small and we certainly don’t mind how big. Every penny counts.”
The group would like to recoup some of their reserves in case of future repairs and refurbishment work needed for the old building.
Mrs Tatman said: “We don’t want it hanging around the necks of our grandchildren, for them to say, we’ve got no theatre.
“We’ve been in this building 80 years, since 1934.”
As soon as the money is raised, BLT will hand over the cash to BLGC, who plan to spend it on improving facilities at Hacking Lane football ground.
A number of events are in the pipeline, including a craft fair at the theatre on April 26, as well as a flower arranging event in June with the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies (NAFAS).
Mrs Tatman said: “It’s important because of what the theatre does. People presume that we just put on plays.
“We have organisations who use it for meetings, particularly the people next door — MhIST Mental Health and also Bolton Arts Forum.
“We do music nights, we do comedy nights, we do themed evenings in The Forge, we do murder mystery evenings, we rent out to other societies when we can fit them in and then we have visiting productions.
We’ve had success in producing leading characters in the world of theatre — Ian McKellen who is our patron, Justin Chadwick, director of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, (Emmerdale’s) Mark Charnock and Simon Trinder, an ex-Shakespearean actor, who now runs a very successful drama school.”
- Cheque donations can be made payable to Bolton Little Theatre and posted to The Next Generation Appeal, Bolton Little Theatre, Hanover Street, Bolton, BL1 4TG.
80 YEARS OF ENTERTAINMENT
- In 1931 members of the Bolton Dramatic Society decided to set up Bolton Little Theatre.
- It took the group three years to find premises they could convert while playing at the old Co-Operative Hall in Bridge Street.
- Thanks to the generosity of local industrialist William Wigglesworth, the premises in Hanover Street, which had been an industrial forge, were acquired and converted into the theatre which opened in 1934.
- In 1989 major renovations were carried out with the main auditorium being divided into two separate theatres — the main auditorium with 165 seats in traditional rows and The Forge, an intimate theatre in the round with seating for 60.
- The theatre’s patron is Sir Ian McKellen, pictured.
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