By Alison Thornton, chairman of St Annes Operatic Society
Increased charges at Lowther Pavilion - amounting to a 30 to 40 per cent rise in our case with all elements factored in - mean that local amateur theatrical and operatic groups could be priced out of the equation... and that would be a sad loss to the good people of Lytham.
I am chairman of St Annes Parish Operatic Society and we have produced shows at Lowther for nearly 40 years, including this summer’s Godspell which was critically well received. I joined the company as a child appearing in Oliver. As a company we played St Annes Pier Pavilion and the Ashton Theatre, both of which were lost to fire. Such is the spirit in amateur ranks others rallied to our aid and enabled us to relocate to the Lowther years ago, so the show could go on. The Lowther feels like home, our theatre, as it is for every other amateur group in south Fylde. Our audiences are local, they don’t want to go to Blackpool or Fleetwood. And since 1982, we have performed popular pantomimes every Christmas there, members making them as professional as possible, and receiving awards for acting, choreography and production.
Last year trustees of Lowther told us we could not put on our panto Humpty Dumpty, although we had the script, the cast and everything ready. A professional production had displaced us. This year the same thing’s happened, although we booked the theatre, so we have cancelled our show, Sinbad. A change of heart, by the head of the trustees, meant we could have moved in after the professionals moved out but it would left us only four days to get in, set up, and rehearse, and two days to perform, not enough time to recoup the costs of hiring the theatre to set up. The professional panto has since extended its run, to include the week we cancelled.
We are now doing what we did last year, a festive concert at our namesake church, St Annes Parish, on December 28 and 29, but we worry that the Lowther may be lost to us and other groups because of the higher charges, and some of the issues faced in hiring it. We don’t want it to become beyond the means of those who have provided so much pleasure over the years.
We’re not professionals and don’t get the promotion of such but we spend many hours organising two shows a year and have provided the theatre with good income over the last four decades.
We have also nurtured many a talent - the now world famous Alfie Boe appeared with our society when he was 17 years old.
It’s false economy to price us out - and at what cost to future talent let alone local audiences?