23rd Oct, 2016

Volunteers hailed for Arts Centre success story

Evesham Editorial 28th Aug, 2014 Updated: 20th Oct, 2016

EVESHAM Arts Centre’s enthusiastic volunteers have been hailed as one of the main reasons behind the venue’s growing success.

The centre’s reputation has grown through the roof over the past 18 months with many top names performing at the 312-seat capacity venue including the likes of comedians Lee Evans, Jim Davidson, Jon Richardson and X Factor presenter Matt Richardson to name just a few.

And earlier this year another packed audience made their way into the Victoria Avenue building when TV star Alan Carr visited Evesham for the first time to perform his Work in Progress show ahead of a national tour.

Tickets for the show sold out in a record time of just 35 minutes beating the 50 minutes witnessed when tickets were released to see Lee Evans’s debut Evesham performance earlier this year.

Run as a registered charity by the Evesham Arts Association, the building is used to deliver entertainment to the town but also an education environment for pupils from Prince Henry’s High School which owns the building.

Because it’s a charity the growing venue, built in 1978, is run by dozens of volunteers who help out doing many essential roles pivotal to its success such as helping out at reception, marketing, ushers and doing technical tasks.

Speaking to the Observer, Keith Norledge who has played a huge role in getting big names to perform at the centre said it would all not be possible without the volunteers.

“Anything like the Arts Centre is only as good as the people who are actually doing all the hard work to pull in the acts and to run a full-blown theatre on a voluntary basis is very exceptional,” he said.

“There are very few theatres across the country that would have the success we have where you’ve got a totally voluntary base of volunteers. I don’t think a lot of people realise that none of them get paid.

“Lee Evans said to me when he turned up what a lovely venue it was and when I explained to him the whole place was manned by volunteers he then took the time out and shook everyone’s hand and said ‘I just wish there were more places like this.’

“At the end of the evening he went away and said to his agent in London how great the place was and we actually got Alan Carr booked from the back of that as he had the same tour manager.”

And comedy is not the only route to the centre’s success with a recent West End show Back to Broadway being staged and world renowned Vienna Festival Ballet booking a three-day gig later in the year.

As well as the core of a strong voluntary unit, a lot of behind the scenes work has taken place to get the Arts Centre on the forefront of agents minds.

“We’ve worked really hard over the last three years to try and get in with the London agents especially for comedy and we’ve now got the reputation with some of the big agents such as Off The Kerb who don’t normally come to small venues like we have,” Mr Norledge added.

“But what they like about us is the fact we’ve got really good facilities and the stage is like an amphitheatre and the audience are all looking down upon on the acts, it’s a quite intimate venue.

“The bigger names now want to come to Evesham to do their Work in Progress shows because of the atmosphere the venue creates. Our reputation has gone through the roof.”

Visit www.eveshamartscentre.co.uk for more information about the venue and details of upcoming shows.