Historic theatre celebrates 90th birthday with crowd-funding appeal

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Board member Sioned Bowen at the Stiwt.

 

A thriving theatre with its roots in the 1926 General Strike will celebrate its 90th birthday next year – and has launched a £50,000 crowd-funding appeal to safeguard its future.

These are exciting times for the Stiwt and the board which runs it believes that crowd-funding, which invites investors small or large to take a stake in a project, and community spirit will guarantee it reaches its centenary and beyond, creating up to 10 new jobs.

The theatre was built in the 1920s thanks to the blood, sweat and tears of local colliers – the Miners’ Welfare Organisation levied a penny a ton on coal in the harsh years between 1924 and its opening in 1926 at a cost of almost £18,000.

From then on, it was heroically supported and run on a daily basis by subscription of tuppence a week from the meagre wages of the hard working miners who managed to raise another £20,000.

Tuppence a week is £3 a week in 2015 money, £156 per annum, and the Stiwt needs 320 people to commit for one year to reach its £50k target.

The Board are planning an ambitious new programme and a secure future for the imposing building which has dominated the social and cultural life of the village for decades.

The crowd-funding plan will be launched on Friday, September 25, at a Noson Lawen organised by the hard working Friends of the Stiwt and board member Sioned Bowen said: “This is a hugely important time for the Stiwt with an exciting new programme for the months ahead and ground breaking new plans for the future. The launch is the first in a series of high profile events.

“We’re sure that the spirit that built this place and saw it through so many challenging years will develop its future to meet new demands and interests for the community.”

Sioned Bowen is an education expert, a former Corporate Director and Her Majesty’s Inspector of School, now Chair of CaST Cymru (Communities and Schools Together) who has worked in and with schools in London as well as in Wales.

She added: “Rhos and ‘The Stiwt’ are part of my family’s ‘history’. I am just a Board Member – a volunteer working with a dedicated team to secure the future of the Stiwt.

“Seventy years ago, on August 15, 1945, my twin brothers, not yet of school age, having moved from Llanerchymedd, Anglesey to Wrexham the week before, went with my father to the Rhos National Eisteddfod and they vividly remember the familiar cry ‘A oes Heddwch?’ – ‘Is there peace?’

“Days before the atomic bombs had fallen on Hiroshima, then Nagasaki, in what President Truman called ‘a rain of ruin from the air which has never been seen on this earth.’

“My brothers still talk about that day, of someone stepping on to the Eisteddfod stage, seizing the microphone to announce news of Japan’s surrender. They remember the stunned silence followed by extraordinary scenes of jubilation.

“An impromptu Service of Thanksgiving followed with prayers and everyone singing the hymn ‘Covenant of Peace’.

“I used to come on my holidays from Mid Wales to Rhos as a child. I have promised one eight-year-old in Rhos, that we will provide her with a superb 18th birthday party at the Stiwt in 2026 – when it celebrates its 100th birthday, as well as giving her and  all young people in Wrexham the chance to experience what other young people have enjoyed here over the past 90 years.”

The Stiwt experienced difficult times and was closed and close to demolition after 1976 but it rose again to reopen in 1999 thanks to the efforts of local volunteers and a £2.1 million Heritage Lottery Grant.

In all, a total of £4.3 million was spent refurbishing the Stiwt and 16 years later it is within touching distance of another important milestone and the build-up to the 90th birthday celebrations will begin with a recitation by Rhos’s own international pianist, Llyr Williams, at the Stiwt on Saturday, September 19.

Other highlights of the autumn programme will include soprano Helen Belton accompanied by the new resident Cambrian Orchestra on Saturday, October 3, ‘Old Rhos’ – 400 photos on the big screen on 9 October, performances by Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, Mid Wales Opera Young Artists night, Black Rat Theatre’s production of John Buchan’s The 39 Steps and the pantomime Aladdin by LHK Productions.

There is also the Stiwt’s new Programme Development Board to support Wrexham County Borough schools with outreach activities involving Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Opera’r Ddraig, OPRA Cymru and Striking Attitudes Dance project linked to the mining industry.

The Stiwt is supported by Rhos Community Council, Wrexham County Borough Council and the Arts Council of Wales and Sioned Bowen added: “1926 was a time of austerity but the people of Rhos and beyond made it a priority to build a worthy community and arts venue.

“In 2016, 90 years later, we’re in another time of austerity. Our funders are facing difficult financial decisions. We are confident that the community will show the same commitment as did the ‘Crowdfunders of 1926’, to the people of Wrexham, our young people and the arts. ”

For the full programme of events at the Stiwt go to http://stiwt.com/