Country’s oldest civic theatre turns 70

Fresh from hosting West Side Story there were more celebrations at the Pomegranate Theatre as the popular venue, owned and run by Chesterfield Borough Council, celebrates its 70th anniversary.

A reception was held where actors, directors, writers, regular customers and Chesterfield Theatre Friends mingled with councillors and theatre staff to celebrate the achievements of the last 70 years.

Then known as Chesterfield Civic Theatre, the theatre was opened by well-known film and stage actress Kathleen Harrison on 19 February 1949.

It was the first civic theatre in the country following legislation brought in by Atlee’s post-war Government and was originally a repertory theatre offering a new show each week.

Among the original company of actors was Peter Sallis, best known for playing Clegg in Last of the Summer Wine and for voicing Wallace and Gromit. Other actors to tread the boards in the early years include Dame Penelope Keith, best known for The Good Life and To the Manor Born and John Challis, known as Boycie in Only Fools and Horses.

Chesterfield Borough Council continues to own and maintain the venue, which was extensively refurbished in 2014 with funding from the council and Arts Council England.

Councillor Steve Brunt, Chesterfield Borough Council’s cabinet member for town centres and visitor economy, said: “We are proud of the history of the Pomegranate Theatre which has entertained so many people from Chesterfield and beyond for the last 70 years.

“We are also proud to fund and maintain the theatre, which with its programme of drama, comedy, dance and film continues to go from strength to strength – here’s to the next 70 years.”

The theatre is currently hosting a repertory season to commemorate the anniversary. To book, visit www.chesterfieldtheatres.co.uk.

An exhibition celebrating the history of the theatre as well as the 25th anniversary of Chesterfield Museum and the 140thanniversary of the Stephenson Memorial Hall where they are both housed is currently open at the museum on St Mary’s Gate.

The museum is open each Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10am to 4pm, Admission is free but donations are welcome to cover the cost of events.

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