Four decades of top class drama at Theatre Church

The Theatre Church

The Theatre Church

First published in News The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , Entertainment reporter

AFTER more than four decades of performances at the Theatre Church, the curtain came down on the final performances in 2012.

The building was originally a school, constructed in about 1866.

In 1969, it was converted to offer a purpose-built theatre space for local groups and was used by hundreds of people every year.

The venue, owned by Bolton Methodist Circuit, was home to five amateur dramatic societies, two youth theatre groups, eight dance groups and numerous other community organisations for many years.

In 2011, Bolton Methodist Circuit announced plans to merge three Methodist churches — Astley Bridge, Chorley Old Road and Halliwell — and move to a new building in Chorley Old Road, due to dwindling congregation numbers.

A Save Theatre Church campaign was set up and CATS Youth Theatre, which used the venue, was granted charitable status to help the fundraising bid.

Campaigners initially set about raising £750,000 but Paul Cohen said an independent survey valued the building at £270,000.

They were able to submit their bid for £300,000 thanks to fundraising and support from businesses but it was sold for £500,000.

Mr Cohen, chairman of Bolton Amateur Theatre Societies (BATS), said: “I still think it was very short-sighted of the Methodists in 2012. I know it was financial and, under business, I accept that.

“It’s not for sale, it’s their building and they can do what they want with it but the fact is that Bolton is going to lose a theatre which is perfect for everything we do.”

The new owners took over the building with Dr Mohammed Kulasi, spokesman for the new owners, offering the theatre groups the chance to rent the venue for £70,000 a year, a rise of tens of thousands of pounds on what they used to pay.

Comments (1)

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12:25am Fri 15 Aug 14

anne.collins11 says...

THIS IS YET ANOTHER NAIL IN THE COFFIN OF METHODISM in Bolton. The short sighted sale of this building denied the community a place where the arts could flourish. Many young people have been a part of Theatre and Dance at Theatre Church over the years. Paul Cohen began his dramatic career here, and look how much joy and experience CATS now gives to young people in Bolton. Katy Cavanagh from Coronation Street gained much experience here before going to RADA. Simon Iddon, a member of Mustard Seed, is now Head of Drama in Bristol area. Sarah Bagshaw writes for Emmerdale. There are many more success stories which have been partly due to this old building. Friendships which have lasted for years as a result of involvement in the Theatre and the Christian drama there, have been forged and continued as a result of this place. Surely someone has the vision and the money to invest in the site and the building as a community arts project to continue its work at the heart of Astley Bridge. Many came to this place with cares worries and problems, and found help, friendship and solace there in a Christian environment. There is no wonder churches are closing for lack of interest. Young people need to be challenged and cared for within a safe environment where they can develop their talents in the arts and learn about life. What a waste of a place which could have such an impact in the community. All the new owners seem to have done is bide their time in order to make more money for themselves.
I used to be a member of the church, and ran youth drama there for many years, directing casts of over 100 at a time in such productions as Pinnocchio, The Man, Travelling Light, Alice, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mustard Seed, The Crucible, Wizard of Oz and many others. I am saddened that the vision for this place from many of the ministers there has not been fully realised thanks to the parochialism, lack of vision and sheer parochialism which has been shown by the Methodist circuit, which has failed to realise the full potential for outreach, especially to the young, that Theatre Church has, and still could offer the community. This is a very sad blow for the community, and for those of us who believe that faith CAN move mountains.
Anne Collins . email: anne.collins11@gmail
.com
THIS IS YET ANOTHER NAIL IN THE COFFIN OF METHODISM in Bolton. The short sighted sale of this building denied the community a place where the arts could flourish. Many young people have been a part of Theatre and Dance at Theatre Church over the years. Paul Cohen began his dramatic career here, and look how much joy and experience CATS now gives to young people in Bolton. Katy Cavanagh from Coronation Street gained much experience here before going to RADA. Simon Iddon, a member of Mustard Seed, is now Head of Drama in Bristol area. Sarah Bagshaw writes for Emmerdale. There are many more success stories which have been partly due to this old building. Friendships which have lasted for years as a result of involvement in the Theatre and the Christian drama there, have been forged and continued as a result of this place. Surely someone has the vision and the money to invest in the site and the building as a community arts project to continue its work at the heart of Astley Bridge. Many came to this place with cares worries and problems, and found help, friendship and solace there in a Christian environment. There is no wonder churches are closing for lack of interest. Young people need to be challenged and cared for within a safe environment where they can develop their talents in the arts and learn about life. What a waste of a place which could have such an impact in the community. All the new owners seem to have done is bide their time in order to make more money for themselves. I used to be a member of the church, and ran youth drama there for many years, directing casts of over 100 at a time in such productions as Pinnocchio, The Man, Travelling Light, Alice, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mustard Seed, The Crucible, Wizard of Oz and many others. I am saddened that the vision for this place from many of the ministers there has not been fully realised thanks to the parochialism, lack of vision and sheer parochialism which has been shown by the Methodist circuit, which has failed to realise the full potential for outreach, especially to the young, that Theatre Church has, and still could offer the community. This is a very sad blow for the community, and for those of us who believe that faith CAN move mountains. Anne Collins . email: anne.collins11@gmail .com anne.collins11
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