Playhouse Theatre celebrates 50 years since reopening

PUBLISHED: 08:00 15 September 2019 | UPDATED: 09:53 15 September 2019

Samantha Ball outside Weston Playhouse to launch of her book marking 50 years since the theatre reopened after the fire which destroyed the original building.    Picture: MARK ATHERTON

Samantha Ball outside Weston Playhouse to launch of her book marking 50 years since the theatre reopened after the fire which destroyed the original building. Picture: MARK ATHERTON

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A Weston theatre celebrated 50 years since it reopened following a devastating fire.

Weston Playhouse destroyed in night fire drama. The charred, debris strewn interior of the theatre.
Picture: WESTON MERCURYWeston Playhouse destroyed in night fire drama. The charred, debris strewn interior of the theatre. Picture: WESTON MERCURY

The Playhouse toasted its half-a-century with a one-off gala night.

On August 22, 1964, a fire destroyed most of the theatre, leaving behind charred remains and some walls - which were demolished.

The new theatre reopened in High Street five years later and was branded 'the most modern theatre in the West of England' by the architects, costing £230,000.

General manager Mark Thompson said: "This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the town's home of live entertainment.

"It was in 1969 when the venue opened its doors, 50 years later and The Playhouse is still going strong and welcomes some of the world's biggest artists and legends to perform.

"The evening raised money for our volunteer group, The Friends of The Playhouse, which by the end of this year, will have invested a staggering £250,000 into the venue since it formed."

Weston Playhouse destroyed in night fire drama. A fireman directs a branch at the still smouldering debris.
Picture: WESTON MERCURYWeston Playhouse destroyed in night fire drama. A fireman directs a branch at the still smouldering debris. Picture: WESTON MERCURY

Mark Thompson presented The Friends of The Playhouse with a plaque to thank the group for its fundraising efforts.

The Playhouse is one of the few venues in the UK which receives no local public funding.

At the gala, both Weston and Worle Operatic Society took the audience down memory lane with two musical performances.

Chairman of the Friends, Barbara Mewse, said: "It was a very pleasant surprise to receive a plaque to go on the wall in the theatre.

"Mark had arranged a fantastic gala and we were delighted with the whole evening and the appreciation of the work we do."

Weston Playhouse destroyed in night fire drama. The charred, debris strewn interior of the theatre.
Picture: WESTON MERCURYWeston Playhouse destroyed in night fire drama. The charred, debris strewn interior of the theatre. Picture: WESTON MERCURY

Anniversary book launched

The theatre's fire and reopening formed the basis of a book by author Samantha Ball.

Samantha has written A History & Celebration Of The Playhouse Theatre following three years of research and interviews.

A book launch took place in the theatre on Saturday, where the Friends also conducted free guided tours of the theatre.

Samantha, who volunteers at the box office, said: "I have always wanted to write, I wrote short stories in primary school and loved to read.

Samantha Ball outside Weston Playhouse to launch of her book marking 50 years since the theatre reopened after the fire which destroyed the original building.    Picture: MARK ATHERTONSamantha Ball outside Weston Playhouse to launch of her book marking 50 years since the theatre reopened after the fire which destroyed the original building. Picture: MARK ATHERTON

"When I was volunteering in the box office one day, I overheard a conversation about 2019 being the 50 year anniversary since the theatre reopened, so I thought that would be the perfect opportunity to fulfil my writing dream.

"With The Playhouse having fought against fire and threats of closure for many years, it has admirably kept going and has gone from strength to strength to maintain its status in the town and attract both bigger shows and wider audiences."

Samantha spent her free time in Weston Library going through books, microfilm and old copies of the Mercury to fin any detail she could about the theatre's history.

She added: "I research process was hard work but I really enjoyed, I spoke to many fascinating people who have fond memories of the Playhouse.

"I was practically euphoric by the time I finished as I had spent six hours a day in the library researching, all the hard work has paid off.

"I must thank everyone who spoke to me and The Playhouse for being incredibly helpful over the past three years."

Weston Playhouse destroyed in night fire drama. The charred, debris strewn interior of the theatre.
Picture: WESTON MERCURYWeston Playhouse destroyed in night fire drama. The charred, debris strewn interior of the theatre. Picture: WESTON MERCURY

The book, priced £12.50, is available to purchase from the box office in High Street, Weston Museum and Waterstones.

Weston Playhouse destroyed in night fire drama. The charred, debris strewn interior of the theatre.
Picture: WESTON MERCURYWeston Playhouse destroyed in night fire drama. The charred, debris strewn interior of the theatre. Picture: WESTON MERCURY

Weston Playhouse destroyed in night fire drama. The morning after.
Picture: WESTON MERCURYWeston Playhouse destroyed in night fire drama. The morning after. Picture: WESTON MERCURY

Ken Dodd checking out the new tabs and silvers provided by the Friends of Weston Playhouse, pictured with Ken Dodd are 'Friends' Rosemary Dowie, Brian Bell and Chairman John Ball. 16-07-1999
Picture: WESTON MERCURYKen Dodd checking out the new tabs and silvers provided by the Friends of Weston Playhouse, pictured with Ken Dodd are 'Friends' Rosemary Dowie, Brian Bell and Chairman John Ball. 16-07-1999 Picture: WESTON MERCURY

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