Civic speech puts Stourport on national stage

Kidderminster Shuttle: TOWN PRIDE: John Caldwell outside the Stourport Civic Centre and Hall site. Picture: Phil Loach. 111409L TOWN PRIDE: John Caldwell outside the Stourport Civic Centre and Hall site. Picture: Phil Loach. 111409L

THEATRE groups from across Britain have listened to a Stourport success story after a volunteer helping refurbish a hall in the town spoke at an annual conference.

John Caldwell, of the Civic Group, spoke for nearly 15 minutes at the Theatres Trust conference - the UK advisory body for the industry - on Monday.

The group helped prove the theatre hall next to Stourport Civic Centre was viable, successfully bringing it into community ownership, and organisers of similar projects from towns such as Birmingham and Leeds listened to the Civic's rollercoaster success story.

Mr Caldwell said the level of interest in how the project had achieved the community asset transfer from former owners Wyre Forest District Council had "put Stourport on the map".

"We are very much being seen as a national example of how this can work properly," he said. "We were the first ones to really push on and make it work the way we have done - a lot of people are trying to do it and finding there are a lot of problems. People were asking us how did we work with local authorities, how did we work as a team and what were our community objectives.

"In turn, I learned a lot of things from others, there is quite a lot I have discovered that I think might work for us. The way certain things have been done, with groups getting out into the communities and getting more support. There are some fantastic models out there, which we can use to benefit the project in Stourport and the whole of Wyre Forest."

Mr Caldwell spoke at the conference about how the Civic Hall had grow in popularity, both with audiences and performers.

He added: "I spoke about how we have come out of nowhere and how we have had to work and learn a lot at the same time. I said there was no textbook or 'theatre management for dummies'. We have had to make it up as we go along and we have done well.

"In the national theatre circle, Stourport has very quickly got a lot of attention and it has put the town on the map."

Refurbishment work has started on the hall, as well as the neighbouring Civic Centre, which will be run jointly by Stourport Town and Worcestershire County councils and host offices, business units, the library and Coroner's office.

The theatre hall is set to reopen in September, with its first event on September 27, with Stourport Choral. The Civic Centre will begin a phased reopening later this year.

"We cannot wait to get it back open and for people to us reopen and under new ownership," Mr Caldwell added.

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