Theatre impressario Andrew Lloyd-Webber stunned a group of fund-raisers when he wrote a cheque for £2,000 to help save an historic Fylde coast building from ruin.
The Cats producer’s generosity will help raise the curtain on a new era for the former St Chad’s Church Hall in Poulton, which has fallen into disrepair since it was forced to close in 2013.
The hall was once home to the Chaddeans amateur dramatics group, which has helped support efforts to restore the building to its former glory.
Members of the Vicarage Park Community Centre (VPCC) group, which formed for that purpose, wrote to Lord Lloyd-Webber’s theatre company, the Really Useful Group, to appeal for help.
Trustees today told of their “complete surprise” when, instead of show tickets they could raffle off at an upcoming fund-raising event, they received the substantial cheque.
Organiser Amelia Hindle said: “As a VPCC volunteer and a long-term member of the Chaddeans, based at the hall until its closure, I thought it would be a good idea to approach a fellow theatre group for a raffle prize.
The Really Useful Group has its own modest budget for charitable distribution and on this occasion we were delighted to offer support for a sustainable community project that will enable the Chaddeans to continue their work in developing young people through the performing arts.
“The cheque came as a complete surprise and has given a terrific boost to our fundraising efforts.”
Lord Lloyd-Webber, an award-winning producer who was given a peerage in 1997, has donated millions of pounds of his fortune to support the arts.
And following his visit to the Fylde coast earlier this year, when he went to see his hit show Cats performed at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, VPCC hoped he would be willing to lend a hand.
Ms Hindle added: “I explained how much the hall meant to the Chaddeans and the local community, how we worked with young people and how much we wished to get back into the hall and stage our musical productions in Poulton once again.
“We are very grateful for such a generous donation as we were only expecting to receive a set of tickets for one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical shows.”
The surprise donation means VPCC has now raised more than £10,000 to repair and renovate the hall.
The Really Useful Group was founded in 1977 by Lord Lloyd-Webber, who remains the sole owner of the company. It has produced dozens of West End and Broadway shows and was behind the hit BBC reality show How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?
A spokesman said: “Andrew Lloyd Webber supports many arts projects throughout the UK through his charitable foundation.
“Since 2010, the foundation has donated over £11m to support high quality training and personal development as well as other projects that make a real difference to enrich the quality of life both for individuals and within local communities.
“The Really Useful Group has its own modest budget for charitable distribution and on this occasion we were delighted to offer support for a sustainable community project that will enable the Chaddeans to continue their work in developing young people through the performing arts.”
The building, which opened in 1925, has a leaning tower that means it is currently unsafe to use and mounting costs forced it to close two years ago.
Over the summer, VPCC took over the lease to the hall and has now embarked upon a five-year restoration and development plan.
The group is holding a charity ball at the Village Urban Resort on November 14 to raise money.
Starting at 7pm, guests will be welcomed with a glass of Prosecco before sitting down to a three-course meal followed by a raffle.
For tickets, call 07929364086.