OPINION: Theatre has been through it - but what a year we have ahead

Members and trustees of Sheringham Little Theatre take part in its AGM

Trustees and members of Sheringham Little Theatre at the trust's AGM - Credit: Richard Batson/Sheringham Little Theatre

Richard Batson from Sheringham's Little Theatre looks forward to better days ahead with a string of shows in the works.

They are three letters can strike fear into many a heart.

A.G.M.

Anyone who is a member of an organisation and, is interested in how it is faring, will have endured this annual event.

It can be a time for listening to dull figures, and staring at the floor or shoelaces when the moment comes seeking involvement from the assembled membership. Avoid eye contact with the officers at all costs!

However, I like to think our Little Theatre annual general meetings are rather better than that.

The one we had recently reflected on the toughest era in the theatre’s history, when Covid shut us down, cutting off our main source of income.

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But there was a lot of positivity in the room; both from the trustees who sit on the charity board running the theatre, and from the members listening on.

Chairman Richard Ellis said the past two years had been “extraordinary”, but added “unlike some arts organisations, we are still here".

Emergency grants had helped, and he praised the support of sponsors, volunteers, theatre friends who had made donations, and the tireless work of a reduced staff team – plus prudent financial management by the officers and board which has always ensured there was back-up for a “rainy day.”

That rainy day turned into a long and persistent downpour and the board warned members that the next couple of years will not be easy. It will involve building up the business once more against a background of rising costs.

I am pleased to say the early shoots of that recovery are starting to show, with enthusiastic campaigns to increase our fundraising, attract new sponsors and recruit more volunteers, whose role will be increasingly important going forward.

And I was also able to announce that we are planning a “normal” summer season – including a thriller in Wait Until Dark, a classic Ayckbourn comedy Table Manners and Willy Russell’s Stags and Hens set in the 1970s.

Lady Walpole stands in front of a portrait of Lord Walpole

Lady Walpole with a portrait of Lord Walpole. They have both been heavily involved with Sheringham Little Theatre - Credit: Lady Walpole

AGMs are not normally a place for emotions, but I have to admit to being a bit tearful when reflecting on some of the stalwart supporters and volunteers who passed away during the year including Audrey Braine, Malcolm Pore, Alan Stables, Richard Lee and Peggy Cole.

We also lost our long-serving president Lord Walpole of course after a 48-year stint at our helm, but are thrilled his widow Laurel is taking over the role. The pair of them have been superb and enthusiastic supporters of our theatre, so we could not have a better figurehead.

As I told the AGM, we like a challenge - though this one has been a stern test. But we have done well to get this far but must now start moving forward.

And what better way of doing it than with these fun shows we are staging this month!

Tobias Nichollas as Evans in The Last Crumb, holding a plate of cake

Tobias Nicholls as Evans in The Last Crumb, coming to Sheringham Little Theatre on March 19 - Credit: The Last Crumb / Sheringham Little Theatre

· March 19 – The Last Crumb – a comedy set in cake shop which tests relationships

· March 26 to April 30 – The Captain Calamity Adventures – family shows brimming with magic and science

· March 26 – The Intellectual Hooligans – improvised “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” comedy

Hopefully those, and our upbeat agm, will put a smile on your face. And if you want to get involved as a volunteer or sponsor we’d love to hear from you.

Show and contact details are available on the Little Theatre website www.sheringhamlittletheatre.com