A THEATRE group created to save Stourport Civic Hall is to be plunged into the national spotlight when its chairman addresses an annual conference.

John Caldwell, of the Civic Group, is to speak at a conference of the Theatres Trust – the UK advisory body for the industry – on Monday, April 28.

This year’s theme is community theatres and trust leaders were said to be particularly impressed by the Civic’s business and financial models which have involved work undertaken by volunteers instead of professionals.

The charity will be the first contributor from a Worcestershire-based theatre or venue in the conference’s history Mr Caldwell said: “Being asked to speak at the conference and then join an expert panel afterwards is a great honour for the Civic and has given us a national recognition in the industry that we could only dream of when we started a few years ago.

“This takes us from being a small, almost unknown venue, even locally, to one with national significance. It’s incredible to get this recognition from such an organisation as the Theatres Trust.”

He added: “If you go back 18 months the project was almost shelved and we quickly had to look at other options. Luckily there was a push and it got it back on track.

“Sometimes things do come up and we have to grit it out and people do not realise how difficult this process has been at times.

“ There’s no way this project could have happened without such a strong team involved.”

Directors from all major UK theatres, including in the West End, as well as national media and Government heads of department will also attend the conference.

The news comes as the transfer of the hall into community ownership nears completion, with Stourport Town Council and Worcestershire County Council just a signature away from taking control of the adjoining Civic Centre, which will host offices, business units, the library and Coroner’s office.

It is also hoped to accommodate the police station.

Organisers had a scare last month when the expected bill for roof repairs for the Civic Hall almost doubled from £60,000 to £115,000 but John Holden, a UKIP town councillor who is also chairman of the cross-party project steering group, said members had agreed to patch it up for five years, using £12,500 of reserves, while more money is raised for a long-term fix.

The Civic Hall is expected to be open in September, with a phased opening of the Civic Centre starting later this year with each service moving in separately.