The Friends of Shanklin Theatre was started in February 2008 following an announcement by the Isle of Wight Council, saying that they were considering closing the theatre. The primary objective of the Friends is to support and maintain the theatre for the use of the Community.
In 2008 and 2009 contact was maintained with the Council, and the Friends expressed interest in taking over the theatre, incorporating an Arts Centre for the Bay Area, and running it as a Community Interest Group. At that time no formal proposal was put to the Council.
At the Isle of Wight Council Cabinet meeting on the 19th January 2010 the Council voted to close the theatre at the end of March. However, the Cabinet seemed strongly in favour of making the theatre available to a Community Group.
At the Shanklin Town Council Meeting held on 11th March the Council voted to authorise the Mayor to sign a “Licence to Occupy” for Shanklin Theatre with the Isle of Wight Council, to run from April 2010.
Despite some delays documents were exchanged between Shanklin Town Council and the Isle of Wight Council, and on Thursday 22nd April, Lynda Fleming, Mayor of Shanklin, signed the necessary paperwork for the temporary lease of the theatre. This enabled the theatre to be operated until the negotiations with the Isle of Wight Council were finalised.
A company, Shanklin Theatre Ltd, comprising some of the Councillors and some of the Friends, was formed to operate the theatre. On the 23rd April the Town Council was finally able to access the building. The following Monday, the 26th April, the company took over the theatre and the first production was staged on the 6th May.
The expenses related to the setting-up of the company were met by the Friends.
The Friends provide the mainstay of staff to run and manage the theatre. There are over 547 Friends, 150 of which are registered volunteers, whose age range is from 9 years to over 90! The volunteers run the front of house, box office, usherettes, bar, confectionery kiosk, and ice cream sellers. They also clean and maintain the building, so if you visit and think ‘How nice to see such clean toilets”, remember it’s one of the volunteers who did the cleaning.
Without the generous assistance given by the volunteers it would not be possible to run the theatre. The Friends also fulfill other important roles within the theatre such as; catering, social media & publicity, hospitality, historic theatre material archiving and scrap-booking, website maintenance, welfare & recruitment, volunteer training and organizing the coffee, cake & chat mornings.
‘Our volunteers are probably the best trained in the Island’. On going volunteer training is key in providing consistent customer satisfaction & safety, a wide range of training programmes have been developed and provided to the volunteer workforce, including fire fighting equipment & evacuation, defibrillator & first aid, customer service & hosting training.
Since the re-opening of the theatre, the Friends have produced shows, attended various summer & winter festivals and fetes, carnivals, regattas and island wide shows, organised an annual garden party, prize draws and held a bucket collection after every show which has now realised over £110,000 for the refurbishment of the theatre.
In November 2011, the ‘Name a Seat’ initiative was launched in conjunction with the newly installed matrix seating system, so far to date over 240 seats have been sponsored.
As well as developing into a leading provincial theatre to which leading stars of Stage and Television head, the Friends have ensured that the Community aspect of the theatre has been maintained. Once a year the culmination of the Island Music and Dance Festival takes over the theatre for a week, serviced and catered for by the volunteers. Every other year it becomes a centre not just for the Island but for the whole of the south.
Based at the Theatre and now in their twenty first year are First Act, a group for people with learning disabilities. Early in 2011, as a direct result of changes to funding, the group was formed as a charitable social enterprise, and named First Act 2011, and the theatre is where members come to rehearse, participate in drama workshops, and give three annual performances.
- The theatre hosts a summer show performed by Spotlight IOW, providing Island visitors with regular weekly entertainment.
- Shanklin Theatre now on the national circuit for major artists & shows as well as being a home to local Island groups such as The Island Savoyards.
Each year the Shanklin Festival of Remembrance is held by the Royal British Legion in the theatre, the largest gathering for remembrance in the south of the Island. Shanklin Town Council regularly holds a Residents Forum and fills the auditorium. These and support for local charities provide the basis of the community theatre created after the formation of FOST in 2010.
June 2012 The Friends of Shanklin Theatre were proud to receive The Queens Award For Voluntary Service (QAVS) – The MBE for Volunteers.
- Shanklin Theatre has been awarded the Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence for three consecutive years since may 2014.
- Regular award winners of the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce Business Awards since 2014.
- RHS awards and Shanklin Best in Bloom awards 2016.
- Walkway – additional fire exit, now also providing internal access to the foyer.
- High specification sound & lighting systems installed at the theatre.
- Map Room restored, providing additional customer facilities and link back to it’s 1940’s use.
- Defibrillator installed outside the box office.
- Front of theatre canopy restored
- On-going window replacement programme.
The Friends of Shanklin Theatre always welcome help and support.
Please consider becoming a Friend. To find out about the Friends benefits and how to join, click here: http://www.friendsofshanklintheatre.co.uk/volfre.php)
You can also support the Theatre by sponsoring a seat for £50.00.
Michael Beston August 2017.