The worth of the Garrison (Hannah Nicholson)
In response to the article in the previous edition regarding the uncertain future of the Garrison Theatre, I must join the organisers of the drama festival in expressing my concern.
The Garrison Theatre has been an important venue in Shetland’s cultural and artistic landscape during its 113-year lifespan. It also holds great historical significance, having been used as a drill hall during the First World War, and serving the purpose of entertaining the troops during the Second World War.
It has hosted a wide and diverse range of productions over the years, courtesy of the numerous organisations that have used it, both local and otherwise.
If the Garrison were to end up closing following Shetland Arts’ lapse of tenure, the impact would be devastating for local amateur dramatics.
The stage at Mareel was not designed for theatrical productions. It would be difficult to envisage either the drama festival or the annual pantomime taking place at this venue. Indeed the future of the drama festival would be thrown into doubt at best.
Of course the local drama groups have country halls to perform in, but they are just not quite the same, particularly for more technical productions.
Anyone who attended the drama festival last week will tell you that there is clearly still a thirst for theatre in Shetland.
Sixteen plays of a high calibre and from a range of age groups were performed over four evenings. Of these four evenings, Wednesday and Thursday sold out completely, and only a handful of tickets were left for Monday and Tuesday.
Similarly last May, all three performances of the revival production of <i>Tell Wiz</i> sold out within five days of the tickets going on public sale.
Although Mareel is a brilliant and much-needed space for viewing films, it can’t be denied that its advent has left the Garrison underused.
I also feel that Shetland Arts could be doing more to promote events that occur within the theatre. I agree with Izzy Swanson’s point that productions at the Garrison are not advertised at Mareel beyond being in the quarterly pamphlet that Shetland Arts releases, and this needs to change.
In addition I would like to see Shetland Arts held accountable for the negligible use of the maintenance budget for the Garrison. I can only presume the money used went towards the dehumidifier to fix the damp problem the building has had for at least a year.
Meanwhile, I ask that your readers do all they can to support future events at the Garrison, to show how much it means to Shetland as a whole.