FEATURE: The stage is set for the next phase of New Mills Art Theatre development

New Mills Art Theatre, David Howe
New Mills Art Theatre, David Howe

It started with buy a brick, now 50 years later a theatre is once again looking to the community to help re-roof the venue.

New Mills Art Theatre is in the second stage of its £800,000 refurbishment and has launched a new campaign ‘Raise the Roof and Donate a Slate’.

New Mills Art Theatre, Beverley Eaves and Paul Holt

New Mills Art Theatre, Beverley Eaves and Paul Holt

Beverley Eaves, who is on the board of directors for the theatre on Jodrell Street, said: “This is a very exciting time for us and the community.

“The theatre has been part of residents’ lives for generations and we are now looking to protect this gem for the years to come.”

New Mills Art Theatre was formerly known as The New Mills Empire and Hippodrome, which opened on Saturday June 24, 1911.

Donate a Slate echoes back to 1966 when the Buy a Brick was launched after New Mills and District Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society completed its purchase of New Mills Art Theatre.

New Mills Art Theatre, David Howe

New Mills Art Theatre, David Howe

Beverley said: “My grandma bought a brick and she was very proud of that fact, but there is no record of this anywhere and we didn’t want this to be the case with Donate a Slate.

“This is a living history project and we want to mark the people who get behind the campaign and have their names written down.”

The total redevelopment costs for the full project is £800,000 and last year £26,000 was spent on restoring the damaged proscenium arch which cracked in the middle under the weight of stage equipment.

On Tuesday April 5, the first load of Irish Slate arrived at the theatre and work is expected to take eight weeks to install the 7,000 tiles.

New Mills Art Theatre

New Mills Art Theatre

Project director David Howe said: “This project has been in the pipeline for several years now and we are really pleased we can start to get the building watertight. Then we can work on other aspects of the internal development.

“We are just excited to extend the life of the theatre.”

Paul Holt, chairman of the board, got involved with the theatre when he played Bill Sykes in Oliver as a teenager. Decades later his love for the theatre is still evident.

He said: “The theatre is great at surprising people, from the outside you have a non-descript building but inside you have this wonderful stage.”

New Mills Art Theatre, the proscenium arch which was restored last year

New Mills Art Theatre, the proscenium arch which was restored last year

The roof has significant cultural importance as it was designed by theatre architect Albert Winstanley and there are only four surviving working Winstanley auditoriums left in the country.

Volunteers run the theatre and help with the front of house on show nights and with fundraising.

“We have a great team of people who are happy to lend a hand when it is needed,” said Beverley.

Every year Friends of the Art Theatre put on a pantomime and the directors aim to host at least one show a month, as well as the community drama and dance groups who use the space at weekends.

Paul said: “We are an important theatre. We have worked with the BBC and have been approached by the Manchester Shakespeare company who want to use the space for a workshop to mark the Bard’s 400th birthday, so it is important to a lot of people that we enter our next stage and fix the leaks in the roof.”

It is hoped that the roof work will be completed in time for the Showaddywaddy gig on Friday June 10.

New Mills Art Theatre, Beverley Eaves and Paul Holt

New Mills Art Theatre, Beverley Eaves and Paul Holt

Paul said: “We have not received any grants for this project but we want people to get behind this and claim their piece of history.

Beverley added: “Maybe you would like to donate a slate to make a lasting difference to an important High Peak landmark.

“Perhaps you run a local business and you would like to mark your involvement in the local community by donating?”

The theatre is asking for donations in multiples of £5 for a slate.

To donate, visit totalgiving.co.uk/mypage/roof.