Monday 22nd September
Actor John Challis - who played Boycie in Only Fools and Horses - has officially re-opened two Chesterfield theatres following a £700,000 refurbishment.
Actor John Challis ('Boycie' from Only Fools and Horses) unveils the plaque to commemorate the redevelopment work done at the Pomegranate and Winding Wheel theatres
The actor, who began his career by performing regularly in Chesterfield, unveiled improvements to the Pomegranate Theatre and the Winding Wheel on Friday 19th September.
The work was possible due to a £495,000 investment from Arts Council England's National Lottery-funded capital programme, and £205,000 from Chesterfield Borough Council, which also owns and runs both buildings.
Speaking at the unveiling of the plaque, Leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, Cllr John Burrows said, "We're here today due to the amazing support we've had from people around the town, our staff, the contractors and the Arts Council. I'd also like to thank the Friends Of The Theatre - the value of the support that you put into these places is recognised by us. Without the support of the Arts Council, this wouldn't have happened today.
"Chesterfield Borough council and the residents are keeping the faith with the venues we have here. We want to keep these for the future - and with the continuing support of the Arts Council and many other organisations we will do."
(l-r) Actor John Challis, Cllr Amanda Serjeant, Arts Council England Area Director Peter Knott and Leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, Cllr John Burrows
Councillor Amanda Serjeant, Chesterfield Borough Council's executive member for leisure, culture and tourism, said: "Both the Pomegranate Theatre and the Winding Wheel are held in high regard by new and regular theatre-goers.
"The support from Arts Council England has helped us improve the experience for our customers. We can now show live broadcasts of performances from venues around the world and attract more West End shows for residents of Chesterfield and the surrounding area to enjoy."
Peter Knott, Area Director, Arts Council England said: "I'm delighted that we have been able to support the refurbishments at the Pomegranate Theatre and Winding Wheel.
"The improvements will mean both venues can expand their artistic and cultural programmes to offer people in Chesterfield more opportunities to experience and enjoy great art and culture on their doorstep."
Work at the Winding Wheel included:
- Increasing the power supply to three times the previous limit to allow the Winding Wheel to stage more large-scale productions such as the West End touring productions of Joseph, Blood Brothers and Dreamboats and Petticoats, which played to packed houses
- Installing a new fixed stage with an automatic stage extension allowing bigger productions on the stage|
- Installing a new lighting rig
- Adding a new stage door and dressing room, as well as improving access to the stage for performers with limited mobility
- Installing new moveable seating in the auditorium.
Work at the Pomegranate Theatre included:
- Installing new digital cinema equipment including a digital projector, surround sound and cinema screen to show live broadcasts of performances from around the world - a satellite dish is also planned to be installed
- Refurbishing the existing 546 seats and adding 43 new seats to the stalls
- Replacing the carpets in the foyer and auditorium and redecorating the front of house areas
- Replacing the existing lighting and control booths in the stalls and adding an audio description room to improve the experience of performances for people with visual impairment.
Only Fools and Horses star John Challis was a regular performer at Chesterfield Civic Theatre as the Pomegranate Theatre was known.
John (left), has fond memories of his time there: "Chesterfield Civic Theatre was my first job in theatre as an actor without the trappings of stage management.
"It was a different show every week so I played a different role each week. We learned The Tempest in seven days - and to this day, I have no idea how we did it! There was a time when I was playing Jack the Ripper at night while rehearsing during the day as the Archangel.
"It was all enormous fun and a great start to my career."
The Pomegranate Theatre is the oldest civic theatre in the country. Established in 1949, its 65th anniversary is marked in an exhibition running at Chesterfield Museum until 22nd November.
The Winding Wheel was built as a cinema in 1923 and was bought by Chesterfield Borough Council in 1987.
As well as theatre performances, it has been hired for political conferences, banquets, wedding receptions and TV appearances.
Guests and dignitaries at the event included the Mayor and Mayoress of Chesterfield and Chief Executive of Chesterfield Borough Council Huw Bowen, had a tour of the venues to see for themselves the improvements and watched a short programme of films to showcase the digital equipment at the theatre.
Listen to the interview with John Challis in full here...
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