Overwhelming support for Blackwood Little Theatre as it meets fundraising target
News | Ben Barker | Published: 12:50, Monday August 1st, 2016.
Last updated: 13:07, Monday August 1st, 2016
The future of a well-loved theatre in the heart of Blackwood has been secured after it raised enough funds to repair its leaking roof.
Blackwood Little Theatre, based just off Woodbine Road, needed to raise £18,000 by the end of July to repair a faulty roof – or face potentially shutting its doors forever.
The theatre had secured a £30,000 grant from Caerphilly County Borough Council to put towards repairs, but when rising costs took the initial bill of £45,000 up to £48,000 in June, the race was on to beat the July deadline or risk losing the council’s time-sensitive grant.
A range of fundraising events and shows were held at BLT across June and July, and on Saturday July 23, a gala night revealed a working total of £17,483 had been raised.
With several events still on-going, the theatre’s chairman, Neil Maidman, hailed the support from the local community and beyond.
He said: “Not all the funds are in yet, we’ve got a couple of sums to do, but I’m over the moon that we reached our £18,000 target.
“We’ve received phenomenal support from various factions of the community whom, to be honest, we’ve not had a great deal to with in the past, but it’s been amazing. They’ve come out of the woodwork, from all across the world, just to help and support us.
“We’ve had support from Michael Sheen, the Manic Street Preachers played one of their first ever gigs here, and they’ve sent us signed memorabilia to auction. We’ve had donations from as little as £1.50 right up to £500 from local residents, all the way to supporters in New Zealand.”
Work has begun on fitting a new roof above the stage area of the theatre.
Mr Maidman added: “We sort of had to hedge our bets where the work was concerned, we wanted to get it started as soon as possible with the time sensitive nature of the council’s grant.
“It’s an eight to ten week schedule, so we don’t anticipate reopening until October, but fingers crossed that the weather holds out.
“Back when we had work done to the front of the theatre, the bar got slightly damaged. It was an inconvenience as an income generator, but it didn’t hinder being able to put on any shows. But if the roof had been left to get worse, the stage would have become dangerous to use, and as an integral part of what we do, that would have meant our future was in jeopardy.
“Support has just snowballed thanks to the power of social media. It’s been an amazing six weeks.”
The level of support took BLT’s Fundraising Co-ordinator, Janine O’Callaghan, by surprise.
She said: “We’ve been shown immense support over the past 59 days. I’ve been blown away.
“I’m absolutely exhausted, but we gave it our best shot. It’s been an amazing journey and quite emotional. This is the start of a new era.”
The £18,000 funds were raised through bake sales, supermarket bag packing, donation boxes at businesses, performances of The Vicar of Dibley, and through an online donation page.
Around £3,500 was also raised by a gala night, hosted by West End and television star Connie Fisher.
Game of Thrones actor Ross O’Henessey, from Pontllanfraith, held a Q&A session at the theatre – where he performed a child – with props from the show, while Aberbargoed’s Luke Evans, who has appeared in film blockbusters The Hobbit, Dracula Untold, and Fast and Furious 6, also offered his support.
“The theatre is ingrained within people and their families, and we can’t thank them enough.”