The demise of one amateur drama company has benefited many others, as David Whetstone reports.
IT IS said every cloud has a silver lining and that has certainly proved to be the case following the closure of a North East amateur drama company.
In 2007 the remaining members of Gosforth Theatre Company decided, after much heart-searching, to bring down the curtain on its 64-year history.
But the legacy of the company lives on. The sale of the company’s headquarters raised £150,000 which has been held in trust by the Community Foundation to benefit other still thriving groups around the region.
The 43 Fund recalls the fact that the old Gosforth am-dram outfit was established in 1943 when a group of friends, as a distraction from the Second World War, started meeting in each other’s homes to read plays.
An amateur drama society, initially called Gosforth 43 Society, was formed and staged its first production, Other People’s Houses by Lynne Dexter, in September 1945 in Gosforth Presbyterian Church. From 1950, the society put on its shows in the new Central Hall, built as Gosforth’s war memorial. These were the boom times, when the society boasted 200 members and put on regular productions of challenging plays such as Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller and Mother Courage by Bertolt Brecht.
Eventually the society started to run out of space for its props, rehearsals and socialising so in 1962 bought a large Edwardian semi-detached house at 44 Salters Road, Gosforth, which became the clubhouse.
Performances continued in the Central Hall until it was burnt down in 1974, after which the society relocated to Gosforth Civic Hall.
The company was relaunched as Gosforth Theatre Company in 1998 in a drive to increase membership and audiences but eventually the cost of maintaining the clubhouse became too much of a burden.
The demise of the Gosforth society, however, is not a reflection of the state of amateur dramatics in the North East, which is in rude health.
Grants totalling more than £110,000 have been allocated to community and voluntary groups from The 43 Fund, managed by the Community Foundation.
One recent beneficiary is the Linskill and North Tyneside Community Development Trust which was awarded nearly £6,000 for a sound system, mics, stage lights, blackout blinds and a hearing loop to improve the audience experience at productions including an annual community panto.
The trust’s Michelle Gascoigne said: “We are delighted to have received this funding from The 43 Fund. The money has virtually kitted us out so now we can put on much more professional productions for our audiences.”
Others to receive financial help are Jambo Africa, based in Sunderland, which received £3,400 for a wireless microphone, a sound effect system and portable lighting for its youth theatre group, and the Clog Collective, based in Seaton Sluice, which received £1,000 for 30 pairs of dancing clogs.
The clogs will be loaned to first- timers for try-out sessions.
Ellie Turner, who manages The 43 Fund, said: “It’s such a great fund to manage and brilliant that it has made such a difference to amateur dramatic organisations around the region.” So far 56 grants have been awarded from the fund and another grant round is due early in 2012.
Anyone interested in applying to the fund should call Ellie Turner on 0191 222 0945.