Comedian reveals hopes to revive memories of Ashton Theatre by installing stage in former offices
A veteran entertainer wants to bring live theatre back to St Annes for the first time in almost 40 years - and give at new lease of life to a landmark building into the bargain.
Yan Andrews-Nettleship, a comedian who has been performing for more than 60 years and lives locally, has her sights set on acquiring the public offices in Clifton Drive South, which have been up for sale for almost five years.
The aim is to install a stage and seating to revive memories of the Ashton Theatre, which burned own in 1977.
In a bid to start generating cash towards a project she admits could cost up to £4m, Yan has launched an arts studio in St Annes town centre - and is looking to the public for support as she aims to make her dream a reality.
With an initial target of £5,000 to help bid for charitable status for her campaign, Yan is looking to the local community to make the most of the performance, rehearsal and refreshment facilities at the St Annes Urban Arts Studio in Back St Annes Road West, which opened this week.
I know it sounds like a lot to ask but I have a dream that live theatre can be revived in St Annes - and why not?
The Studio is in rented premises formerly occupied by the SureStart family help organisation.
As well as holding classes in a variety of dance an performance disciplines, Yan plans to stage regular shows at the Studio to boost the appeal coffers.
But her ultimate aim is to revive the spirit of the old 600-capacity Ashton Theatre, where she performed many times before its demise.
“I know it sounds like a lot to ask but I have a dream that live theatre can be revived in St Annes - and why not?” she said.
“I performed many times at the Ashton Theatre and it was wonderful. So many people still miss it and it would be marvellous to have a live theatre venue back in St Annes.
“I know there is the excellent Lowther Pavilion in Lytham but many people, especially the older generation, find that too far to travel.
“I feel there is a place for a theatre in St Annes, providing regular entertainment for residents and also proving an attraction to our many visitors.
“The public offices would be ideal, although we have also looked at other buildings as possibilities.”
Along with taking to the stage herself, Yan has long been a performance teacher and at the Urban Arts Studio, where she is joined by her son Hilton Jay and friend Carolann Curley, intends to provide classes with a view to regular shows being staged there to help raise cash for her theatre revival campaign.
“We want to hear from people who would like to take part and help us bring theatre back to St Annes,” she added.
“The studio is also available for one-off events and celebrations as well as offering the opportunity for people to drop in for a coffee. We look forward to seeing everyone.”
Yan went along to the latest meeting of St Annes Chamber of Trade to talk of her plans and the Chamber’s co-ordinator Arnold Sumner said:
“I hope Yan’s new studio and her plans to revive theatre in St Annes are a success. She really cares about the town and it would certainly be a welcome facility. If it could give a new lease of life to a landmark building, all the better.
“The Ashton Theatre was wonderful and is still much missed. How exciting to think St Annes could have a theatre of its own again.”
A Fylde Council spokesman said: “Staff on the Public Offices site will, at some stage, be moving to the main Town Hall as a means of generating efficiency savings for the council. This in turn gives us the opportunity to fund the necessary Town Hall alterations by realising a valuable capital asset at what is a prime site in the centre of St Annes.
“We have been marketing the site, which includes two main buildings and a car-park, for an asking price in excess of £750,000 since mid-2011. Our objective is to maximise income for council taxpayers while ensuring the site is brought into productive use for the good of the area.
“Considering the difficult market conditions, we have had a good deal of interest during that period, but have been unable to finalise a sale.
“Several parties have recently submitted tentative offers and we are currently working with them to firm up their proposals, with a view to making a decision in the near future.”
Details of the Urban Arts Studio and Yan’s theatre revival plans are available by calling (01253) 727731 or 07931 113855.