College students refurbish run-down theatre

PUBLISHED: 09:00 04 July 2016

Reopening of the Theatre in the Hut after renovation work by Weston College students.

Reopening of the Theatre in the Hut after renovation work by Weston College students.

Archant

A group of Weston College students have worked tirelessly to refurbish a 100-year-old theatre space, leaving its staff ‘lost for words’ at the improvement.

Reopening of the Theatre in the Hut after renovation work by Weston College students.Reopening of the Theatre in the Hut after renovation work by Weston College students.

This project at Theatre In The Hut in Milton Road has been planned and carried out over several weeks, and a grand reopening took place last week to celebrate the students’ achievements.

Desperately-needed tasks including sanding, painting and clearing of the surrounding gardens were all tackled by students who attend Weston Bay.

Weston Bay is a residential training facility for students who are on the autistic spectrum and are studying a course called Aspirations at the college.

While many of the students have academic qualifications, some have struggled with securing employment, higher education or independent living.

Weston Bay allows the students to get used to being away from home and develop their social skills, while also learning new skills ready for the world of work.

The process of working on a large-scale project began with a discussion phase to choose which refurbishment would be most worthwhile.

Weston Bay co-ordinator Heidi Martini told the Mercury she has seen the students through the whole process and they were almost unanimous in their decision to work on the run-down theatre.

She said: “They all thought this was the most beneficial to the community. We could not have got more local with this project and it has been really great for them.

“They have worked so hard and had a great response so far.

“They demonstrated a wide range of skills including employability, teamwork, leadership, problem solving and reliability.

“We are incredibly proud of their achievements individually and as a team.”

The reopening event welcomed people from the theatre to join in the celebrations, as well as the mayor and mayoress of Weston.

Many of the students also bravely made speeches to tell guests about the work they had done.

One of these hard-working students was 25-year-old Nick Thorne, who told the Mercury working as a team was one of the most important things for him.

He said: “It’s been really good. There was a lot to do but we got a really good result and everyone worked hard. People don’t know a lot about the theatre and now hopefully they will.”

That sentiment was echoed by 21-year-old Leanne Mackellar, who said: “We chose to work on the theatre as we thought it would be more of a challenge.

“It is my second year at Weston Bay, and it was harder but I have really enjoyed it and everyone worked hard.”

Staff from the Theatre In The Hut said the work would never have been done without the students’ help.

The theatre’s membership secretary Maureen Riley said: “We are absolutely amazed. They worked so hard on this challenge – and it certainly was a challenge.

“I will be honest; I didn’t think they would do it in eight days. I don’t know what else to say really except thank you.

“It is good to show people we are here and to be honest they helped do something we really couldn’t do.

“Not once have they complained and we are all extremely grateful – it has made such a difference.”

Student Sam Billam, 20, was pleased to be able to offer help to the theatre when it really needed it.

He said: “It has been great and I have enjoyed helping the theatre. I enjoyed the sanding and the painting the most. Everyone had their jobs, which worked well.”

The theatre’s volunteers hope it will be well and truly on the map following the grand opening, as they look to continue to perform up to four shows a year.


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