PICKERING’S Kirk Theatre has been a home of entertainment for 30 years but is facing imminent closure unless more people support the facility. HANNAH BRYAN took a look behind the scenes

WATCHING the volunteers gather on stage, their laughter echoing around the theatre, it’s easy to see just how much they love what they do.

From ticket collection and creating stage props to taking the lead role on stage, each volunteer has their own preferences and the manager of the Kirk Theatre, Pickering, really wasn’t joking when he told me “there’s something for everyone”.

“I’ve been coming here since I was eight and people don’t appreciate that it’s a proper theatre but in miniature,” Luke Arnold tells me.

Sitting in front of the stage, watching action and adventure play out, it’s easy to forget that there’s another side to theatre other than what happens on stage.

There’s a whole underground world of theatre to discover. Aside from the expected, the dressing rooms, the box office and the sound and lighting booth, corridors so low they’re like underground tunnels, lead you through to the Narnia of the theatre world.

What appears to be a small and simple theatre is revealed to be a costume lover’s haven on one side underneath the stage and a rehearsal space for groups the other.

Brushing past fabrics and dresses lining a narrow corridor, 3,000 costumes can be discovered with everything from Red Indians to princesses, all carefully bagged and lined up.

The costume mistress, Anita Pool, has been doing her job for several decades. It has been a huge part of her life, as is the case with many of the volunteers, so the thought of losing the theatre due to lack of help has been hard for them to hear.

Luke estimates the building now costs £45,000 a year to run and with it being completely volunteer-led there’s a danger that what has become a landmark in the Pickering community for 30 years will soon have to close.

“It’s great to be part of a group here,” Jennifer Dale tells me.

She has been volunteering with the theatre for 30 years now and says she still gets the same excitement she did three decades ago.

“I did comedy on stage and I got such a buzz from that, but even now when I’m helping out I still get a buzz out of that.”

There’s plenty of helping out to be done as well. Weaving back through the aisles of costumes in to two smaller rooms, it’s an oasis of weird and wonderful props. The smaller room of the two has everything from the bizarre offerings of a boars head and plastic rats to orchids and fake trees.

It would be a haven for someone who loves to organise, or for someone who is simply interested in theatre and all things weird and wonderful.

It’s people like this who are needed at the Ryedale theatre.

“I just think we are so lucky in such a small town to have such a fabulous theatre,” said Suzanne Booker, a volunteer of five years.

“We just love it, and there is always something for everybody.”

There’s that phrase again, and it’s easy to see just how much they love it as they amble off stage, still laughing.

Yes, they would not just be losing the place they have all come to love, they would be losing the close community they have formed working together on both the obvious, and undiscovered world of theatre.

To find out more about volunteering with the theatre, visit their open event on Friday, 7pm-9pm, and meet theatre staff and see behind the scenes.

Refreshments will be available.

Anyone who is unable to come along on that day but would like to get involved should get in touch with assistant theatre manager Aimee Dussold by emailing thekirktheatre@gmail.com

 

Kirk Theatre down the decades

York Press: 1983:
Volunteers put the
finishing
touches to the Kirk
Theatre ready
for its opening
1983:Volunteers put the finishing touches to the theatre ready for its opening. The building, in Hungate, was the former Methodist church.

York Press: The official
opening of
the Kirk Theatre
was performed
by Lady
Worsley
1983: The official opening of the theatre was performed by Lady Worsley

York Press: Alan Ayckbourn, back right, toasts
success to the cast of Pickering Dramatic Club’s production of
The Secretary Bird
1993: World famous playwright Alan Ayckbourn, back right, toasts success to the cast of Pickering Dramatic Club’s production of The Secretary Bird

York Press: Members of Pickering Musical Society mark 25 years
since the opening of the Kirk Theatre
2008: Members of Pickering Musical Society mark 25 years since the opening of the Kirk Theatre