THIRTY one years ago, Consett was still reeling from the impact of the closure of its steelworks and the loss of the plant’s 3,700 jobs.
The town became one of the worst unemployment blackspots in Britain, with 36% out of work in 1981.
Around that time, a group of community stalwarts launched the Consett Community Youth Theatre to give the town’s young people something to do.
Five original members were Stephen Stokoe, Samantha Oliver, Helen Jopling, Jayne Clennell and Andrea Shannon, all aged around 11 at the time.
Now in their early forties, the five have decided to re-launch the theatre group for a new generation of youngsters and called it Spotlight Community Theatre Productions. Tomorrow night, the youngsters in the group are presenting Once Upon A Spotlight, billed as an evening of musical memories for all the family.
Theatre group chair Jayne Clennell said the five were “carrying the torch for Consett”.
The 41-year-old added: “Although we were probably too young to realise it at the time, the theatre group was launched during a desperate time for Consett.
“Every single family in the town was affected by the steelworks closure in one way or another. But there was a group of dedicated adults who weren’t going to give up on the town.
“They saw a youth theatre group as something positive, something to focus on encouraging children like we were. It must have rubbed off because five of us were in the original theatre group and now we are carrying the torch for Consett by encouraging a new generation of performers.”
Stephen, 41, added: “We seem to be in the middle of another recession, just like during the early 1980s. Then a junior theatre club thrived and we are confident it can do again. The children are wonderfully enthusiastic.”
Once Upon A Spotlight, which includes a selection of songs from the film Mary Poppins, takes place tomorrow at 7.15pm at Delves Lane Community Bar (formerly the social club), Consett, DH8 7LB. Tickets £3 on the door.