Theatre group wins Lottery grant

Wick Theatre Company's cast for Sailor, Beware! at The Barn Theatre in April, 1959
Wick Theatre Company's cast for Sailor, Beware! at The Barn Theatre in April, 1959

Wick Theatre Company has won Lottery support for an exhibition celebrating its 70th season.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has given an £8,800 grant to the thespians to mount a heritage exhibition at Manor Cottage in Southwick in June.

Mark Best, left, and Dan Dryer in Happy Family, the most recent production. Picture: Miles Davies

Mark Best, left, and Dan Dryer in Happy Family, the most recent production. Picture: Miles Davies

Amanda Evans, whose parents Ralph and Betty Dawes were among the first members, will be the curator.

She said: “The exhibition will tell of the company’s journey, from the gathering in 1948 of a small group of enthusiastic teenagers, and their mentoring by a local benefactor, through stagecraft development by involvement with local drama competitions, to their presenting 70 seasons of award-winning drama.”

The project will focus on notable events in each of the seven decades of bringing theatre to Southwick.

The company has, to date, produced 263 shows at the Barn Theatre, within Southwick Community Centre.

Bob Ryder, chairman of Southwick Community Centre, said: “Wick Theatre Company has a long connection with Southwick Community Association, which has been delighted to host the group’s activities over the last 70 years.

“Not least, Wick has been such a regular and distinguished contributor to the cultural offering in Southwick, in stage productions presented at the community centre’s Barn Theatre since it opened in 1951.”

The exhibition will engage with the community in presenting historic material, memories of theatrical events and the development of the community centre into being a home for all-year-round theatrical experiences.

Ralph Dawes, president of Wick Theatre, said: “We are thrilled to have received support thanks to National Lottery players for this important local project.

“As one of the few surviving founder members from 1948, I am keen that the wonderful legacy of theatre in the historic Barn Theatre, situated within the Southwick Community Centre, be preserved for future generations in both digital and in written formats.”

The exhibition will be open from Saturday, June 30, and run throughout July.

Mary Candy, chairman of the Southwick Society, which runs the Manor Cottage Heritage Centre, said: “Wick Theatre Company has been an important part of village life in Southwick for the last 70 years and this exhibition about its formation and development over those years is an important part of our heritage.

“We are delighted to host the exhibition and the Heritage Lottery Fund support will enable the sharing of audio and film archives and older member’s reminiscences as part of the exhibition.”

The company was initially called the Unity Players before becoming Young Wick Players. In 1963, when the membership was no longer young, it became Wick Theatre Company.

The Barn Theatre opened in 1951, after a year of extensive conversion of a derelict farm building. The council, which owned the site, encouraged volunteers to ‘take ownership’ and. Wick Theatre members were among those involved.

A spokesman for the Heritage Lottery Fund said: “We’re delighted to support Wick Theatre Company to celebrate the heritage of its relationship with Southwick.

“Thanks to National Lottery players, local people will explore and play a part in preserving an important part of the town’s cultural history.”