The Show Must Go On.
At 90, our Queen has been around longer than sliced bread, seen her country through hundreds of international cataclysms and is having – in the monarch stakes- quite a good run. Her theatre in Barnstaple is not. It’s seen two world wars , been burnt down in the late 40s thanks to a stray cigarette butt, rebuilt, remodelled and must have finally thought the worm had turned when it got its very own electrical orchestra pit in 2013. Not so. Last month, the North Devon Theatre Trust that provided its funding went into administration and it was forced to close, along with its far flung cousin the Landmark in Ilfracombe.
This is far from the first closure it’s faced, though perhaps it is the most disheartening; after all, anyone with an architecture degree and a bit of plywood can make a building, but when their grant is reduced by more than £110,000, it’s almost impossible for a charity to limp forward. Although the Trust’s dream to keep two vibrant theatres in North Devon is on hold for a while, there’s no reason for Barnstaple to put its whole reputation for the arts on hiatus.
The Barnstaple Fringe will take place from June 28th to 2nd July, as per usual. Although planned months before The Queen’s closure on 23rd January, this year’s Theatrefest seems like a direct retaliation to the news. For the first time, independent productions are not constrained to usual venues and will instead be spilling out onto the streets, car parks and cafes of the town. The motto this time seems to be ‘No theatre: No problem’.
For example, keep an eye out for I.e’s piece “Dollface”, a tale of Sisyphean agonies that could well be performed atop the large manmade hill by the library. Not only will this provide a great visual metaphor for the audience, but in summer it is a beauty spot , encircled by trees and looking out over four points of town. Discussions with the council are underway, but even if they can’t appropriate that spot, the actors will make the most of the open air aesthetic and are eager to play around with its possibilities.
Of course while this is perfect for a summer festival, Sleeping Beauty will be dead of hypothermia before she ever wakes up if they try to perform panto outside in December. Something will have to be done to sort the plight of The Queen’s Theatre before then, but in the meantime, www.northdevontheatres.org.uk will be regularly updated with news..
... If you’re not entirely sure how to get on the internet in the first place, such helpful instructions are meaningless. And with our recent reliance on technology, it feels like unless you can gaze into the twinkling eye of a monitor screen at all times, you’re out of the loop. This is a feeling that the charity TorrAGE Ageing Well has worked to combat over the last 18 months.
Sixth formers at Bideford college have volunteered to teach members the new IT skills they need to get ahead again. This includes how to use tablets, send emails and while away their time on social media feeds. This term however, the ‘Ageing Well’ team have weighed in to make sure their own skills are passed on, and volunteers have been taught how to knit; a skill many of us here at the Youth page are still grievously inept at. Once they had gotten past the basics of casting on, students were introduced to the art of Twiddlemuff creation. The completed muffs will be presented to a local care home very soon.
One of the students enthused, “My teacher is so lovely, it’s great learning a new skill and being able to make something that’s both pretty and useful”
If you would like to know more about what Ageing Well has to offer please call the office on 01805 622666, or visit the website www.torrage.org.uk
Millie Sutherland O’Gara.