Inspirational civic group celebrated at conference

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

A THEATRE group from Stourport has been praised at an annual theatre conference for the work members have done in turning round the fortunes of the theatre hall.

The Civic Group proved the hall, next to Stourport Civic Centre, was a viable asset, successfully bringing it into community ownership, after a deal was made between Wyre Forest District Council and Stourport Town Council.

John Caldwell, chairman of the group, spoke at the Theatres Trust Conference – the UK advisory body for the industry – on April 28 about the difficulty the group faced with the task of helping with the running of the hall.

He said: “We are all amateurs – none of us have professional experience of running a venue or events.

“Half of us didn’t even know the proper technical terms for stage equipment.

“Community asset transfer is fantastic. Is it simple? No. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Every step of the way.”

His speech was warmly welcomed by theatre groups from across the country, even being referenced in the conference’s official report.

Dominic Cavendish, conference reporter, wrote: “As the conference gleaned through the testimony of John Caldwell, some councils really need to raise their game.

“Caldwell summed up the can-do attitude – describing the labour of love, set-backs and the steep learning curves. You wanted his final quote on a t-shirt, it was 2014’s take-home message.”

Refurbishment work has started on the hall, as well as the Civic Centre, which will be run by Stourport town and Worcestershire county councils and host offices, business units, the library and coroner’s office.

The hall is set to re-open in September, with its first event on September 27, with Stourport Choral. The Civic Centre will have a phased re-opening later this year.

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