April 18, 2016 | Community News
A successful Durham drama group is hoping to attract bigger audiences to its regular productions after a four figure grant from a regional employer helped to pay for a new entranceway to be built at their theatre.
The width and angle of the existing entranceway to the City Theatre that is used by Durham Dramatic Society, and the uneven cobbles that lead up to it have always made it awkward for people to get into the building, especially for anyone with walking difficulties.
The Society has developed a comprehensive five-year building improvement programme that it hopes will further increase audience numbers by making the theatre more accessible.
And as part of that project, a £5,000 grant from The Banks Group via its Banks Community Fund has now enabled the Society to create a new entranceway into the 71-seat theatre in a different part of the building which both makes it easier to get into it and also improves the internal environment.
The work has been carried out by local firm Dickman Developments, with other improvements also being made to the building’s heating and electrics, and the Society is now looking at ways to further upgrade its lighting systems.
Durham Dramatic Society was originally formed in 1929, and is this year celebrating the 30th anniversary of the conversion of the City Theatre building into its present layout.
The Society, which is entirely self-funded through ticket sales and memberships, is run by an enthusiastic team of volunteers and puts on five productions every year, the next one of which is Over My Dead Body by Derek Benfield which runs from 17-23 April and tickets are available from the Gala Theatre.
As part of its ongoing fundraising work, it hires out the City Theatre to outside groups and for private events, and in May, it will also be holding a sale of vintage costumes from its extensive wardrobe.
Wendy Smith, treasurer and front of house manager for Durham Dramatic Society, says: “We have a thriving group which draws members and audiences from right across the area, but we have always been conscious of how uninviting the physical setting of the building could be.
“The improvement programme we’ve drawn up has been designed to provide a long-term solution to these issues, and we’re already seeing the benefits of this new entranceway.
“As well as making our venue far more accessible to all, the changes we’ve made have also made the theatre interior much lighter and airier, and the feedback we’ve had from audiences is that it’s now a far more comfortable environment in which to watch our productions, so we’re very hopeful that we’ll now get even more people coming along to see them.
“While we’ve been fundraising ourselves for this project, the generous grant we’ve had from The Banks Group has helped us enormously, and has meant we’ve been able to get this work done far more quickly than would otherwise have been possible.”
Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at the Banks Group, adds: “Durham Dramatic Society makes a fantastic contribution to cultural life in the city, and we’re very pleased that we’ve been able to support a project that will make their productions accessible to even more local people.”
Tickets for the Society’s production of Over My Dead Body are available from the Gala Theatre in Durham on 0300 026 6600. Membership of the “Friends of Durham Dramatic Society” costs £100 for one year or £250 for three years.
The Banks Community Fund provides grants for community groups and voluntary organisations in the vicinity of both operational and proposed Banks Group projects. Anyone interested in applying for funding should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342.