ACTING legend Sir Ian McKellen has sent a heartfelt letter to Bolton Little Theatre (BLT) in support of its fundraising campaign.
The theatre’s lease on the Hanover Street building expires in 2051, after which the property will be handed over to Bolton Lads and Girls Club (BLGC) — unless they can raise £90,000 to buy it.
The Lord of the Rings actor, who is patron of BLT, was invited to a special evening at the theatre to drum up support and donations.
The 74-year-old was unable to attend due to appearing on Broadway in Becket's Waiting for Godot and Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land until April so sent a personal letter to the theatre where he appeared as a boy.
He wrote: “Growing up in post-war Bolton, with its three professional theatres, I was spoilt for theatre but most grateful to the Little Theatre.
“It was the amateurs of Hanover Street, the lovers of theatre, who invited young enthusiasts like me in, who risked doing Shakespeare and other classics, plus the new plays like the Christmas entertainments of Alan Cullen.”
Despite having 37 years to raise the cash, an agreement has been drawn up that if members raise the money 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, will 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.
Sir Ian’s letter adds: “I hope, as much as you do, that the money is soon raised in full, to re-establish the lease and the continuity that Bolton theatre-goers need and deserve.”
The letter also mentions Alan Cullen, who wrote a number of children’s plays for BLT.
Elizabeth Tatman, Bolton Little Theatre chairman, said: “It’s always good to have something from Sir Ian because he’s been a very good supporter of us since he became famous.
“We have members who remain in contact with him who were the same generation as him at school and the theatre.”
- Cheque donations can be made out to Bolton Little Theatre and sent to Next Generation Appeal, Bolton Little Theatre, Hanover Street, Bolton, BL1 4TG. b
Sir Ian McKellen's letter
I'm acting on Broadway in Beckett and Pinter until April, otherwise I should be with you tonight. Apologies and greetings to all.
If Michael Shipley should happen to be reading this to you, I'll remind him that we are the oldest of friends and that when he and I acted away at Bolton School in the mid-1950s, he wore tights and I wore a frock!
Growing up in post-war Bolton, with its three professional theatres, I was spoilt for theatre but most grateful to the Little Theatre. It was the amateurs of Hanover Street, the lovers of theatre, who invited young enthusiasts like me in, who risked doing Shakespeare and other classics, plus the new plays like the Christmas entertainments of Alan Cullen.
I acted in a few of these, not very well but I wanted to try hard, in the company of actors like Alan — and the great Geoffrey Banks.
Geoff taught me French at Bolton School but his heart was in acting, eventually as a professional onstage and radio. I saw his Hamlet at BLT, with his ghostly father played by the Bolton Evening News drama critic, John Wardle, real-life father to Irving, The Times drama critic.
So, professional and amateur complement each other and sometimes overlap. Practically all professionals started as amateurs. That's why I've so enjoyed being Patron of the Little Theatre Guild for the past few years, with the opportunity of seeing almost half of our 100 guild-members in action.
Bolton Little Theatre could not have produced live theatre for 80 years, without much talent and great determination.
Long may such virtues thrive — and continue in the theatre you are now in.
I hope, as much as you do, that the money is soon raised in full, to re-establish the lease and the continuity that Bolton theatre-goers need and deserve.
I also hope to see you soon.