There’s no business like showbusiness

19 Oct

In the cafes, kitchens and coffee shops of our small town, local chatter is of revolution, regime change and people power.

This is not Cairo or Tunis or Tripoli, but the seaside  community of Swanage here in the UK.

The subject of our little local uprising is The Mowlem seafront theatre, a stone-clad monolith at the end of the beach. It was bequeathed to the community by some Victorian benefactor (a dying breed. Benefactors that is.) and is now run with charitable status by a board of self-electing Trustees.

The Trustees therefore dictate to some extent the cultural agenda of the town. This translates on the whole as a selection of amusingly amateur theatre productions and any live music soirees involving the word “memory” in some form – Musical Memories, You Must Remember This, Memories are Made of These and so on.

It also operates as a cinema. “Coming soon – Titanic” was a poster that appeared in the window for a few weeks over the summer, with commendable optimism. To be fair it does also screen more up-to-date releases. We went to see the last James Bond movie there. In a 384 seat cinema, there were seven of us. Who needs a West End premiere?

Paul Daniels performed there once. With a broken microphone, to a very small audience by all accounts (obviously there weren’t many). He hasn’t been back.

The theatre bar/restaurant has been closed for the last two years which has possibly played its part in disgruntling the locals. Believe me, you need a stiff drink in order to survive some of the more theatrical am dram offerings.

Recently one resident decided to take the matter in hand. He founded a group called the 50/50 club. The rules were simple. Fifty people would put £50 each into a fund and the money would be used to book some high profile performers that locals actually wanted to see. The profits generated would then be used to book further similar acts and on it would go.

Simple, but not to the liking of the theatre Trustees who have taken the whole thing rather personally. So personally in fact, that today they have taken out an extraordinary half page advert in our local paper to remind the town who is boss. And guess what – it’s not the 50/50 club.

The advert – half a page of solid text – informs Swanage that the theatre is “in good shape”, “an asset to the town” and that audiences are increasing (I know that 24 whole people went to see veteran singer Rosemary Squires perform an evening of wartime favourites earlier in the year). Residents are encouraged to show their support by joining a “friends” group in unspecified fundraising activities. Mind you as the venue claims to be operating at a 50% surplus, said fundraising must be bloody fantastic.

We won’t be getting any “names” (their word) performing any time soon though. It’s our own fault – we are too poor. Apparently such extravagances “can push ticket prices beyond what Swanage audiences can bear”. Fortunately we have such delights as The Magic of Christmas, Showaddywaddy and Hello Dolly to keep us warm this winter instead.

The Trustees dont hold back on their view of the 50/50 club either. In paragraph five there’s a carefully worded suggestion that the club may have encouraged donations based on “inaccurate or misleading information, or unqualified assumption”. Kapow.

I have a feeling this feud is going to run and run. Anyone for popcorn?

PS I should probably point out that I am no longer working here as a local news reporter and that these are my own views etc etc. Ta muchly.

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11 Responses to “There’s no business like showbusiness”

  1. Mrs Pop October 20, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    I really miss small town living. My mom was on the board of directors for my hometown’s historic “Paramount” theater. Your post brought back some memories. 🙂

    • zskdorset October 21, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

      How wonderful! Theatre certainly seems to attract some interesting folk 😉

  2. MLH October 20, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    Sat crying with laughter into my coffee. Never under-estimate a Swanage feud, have a feeling this one will just keep on giving.

    • zskdorset October 21, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

      I wonder what the next step will be… It’s got to involve a page in The Times, right?

  3. Darren Lee October 21, 2011 at 12:01 am #

    Any chance you can scan the offending ad in? Would love to see it.

    • zskdorset October 21, 2011 at 11:05 pm #

      Alas, we have no scanner, and the font is too small for a pic. I don’t *think* the Swanage Advertiser has much of a web presence… *googles*…

  4. Quarrwade October 24, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    The same advert was also placed in the Purbeck Gazette, which also publishes online each month. Having contacted them, apparently the relevant edition should be online sometime tomorrow (Tues 25th Oct). The advert is on page 49 of the November edition and should be available from tomorrow at: http://www.purbeckgazette.co.uk by clicking ‘latest issue’ on the blue menu on the home page……..

  5. Quarrwade October 24, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    The Mowlem advert in question is available online at: http://www.purbeckgazette.com/page.aspx?p=latest

    page 49

  6. Mark Carter October 24, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

    You and Jack are like the Cuban revolutionaries set to overthrow the Batista regime at The Mowlem. Viva La Revolucion Amigos!

  7. Dave Taylor October 24, 2011 at 11:01 pm #

    The next meeting of the 5050 club will be in the community room of the Mowlem, 10th November at 7:30pm. The meeting is open to everyone and the trustees will be invited. Hope to see you there.

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