Stage set for Seaham drama group

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ONE of the region’s most established theatre groups is facing closure after 35 years.

The curtain could come down on the Vane Tempest Theatre Group, based in Seaham, within a year, due to a lack of funds and falling membership.

Member Ruth Southwick, 24, who is in charge of fund-raising, said: “We aren’t looking more than a year ahead.

“If there’s no money in the bank then we can’t look to more than that. It is sad.

“Fund-raising is very difficult right now given the economic climate. People find it hard to give and ticket sales have dropped.”

Money is so tight that the group is unable to celebrate its 35th year together.

Ruth said: “We celebrated five years ago for our 30th anniversary, but people are saying that they can’t afford a ticket.”

Ruth’s sister Helen added: “We’re looking at ways to raise more money – for example moving our shows from October to nearer Christmas and putting on pantomimes or variety shows. “We can put on shows cheaper than big theatres, so it would be cheaper for people to come and see us.”

The group, which recently staged a performance of Sweet Charity, is in the blood of the Southwick family.

Ruth and Helen have been members since they were in their teens. Mum Lindsey, now group secretary, joined when she was 17.

But membership is dwindling, with the cast dropping from 35 last year to 20 for their latest show, and there are just four men in the group.

Ruth said: “In a way, amateur theatre is dying out, but there are also a lot of positives to Vane Tempest Theatre Group as we’ve had members go on to RADA.

“People do it because they love amateur theatre, and although we’re few in number we have loads of fun and go every week.”

The group is looking at ways to raise funds and recruit new members through special events such as a free-entry Christmas fete, on December 3 at Eastlea Community Centre in Seaham.

Helen added: “We’ve had our knocks over the years, but we’ve always found somewhere to rehearse and practise.

“So although the future is uncertain, for now we’re still going to plough on and fight.”

For more information on the Christmas fete and the Vane Tempest Theatre Group, contact Lindsey Southwick on 581 9361 or email secretary@vttg.co.uk.