Common ground unites as committee aims to take Garrison Theatre forward

A “very exciting” future for the Garrison Theatre awaits now that a committee has been set up to protect its place in the community.

That is the view of president of Islesburgh Drama Group Martin Summers, who was one of the 15 drama enthusiasts who attended the first meeting of the Friends of the Garrison committee on Tuesday.

He said: “I am positive that with the individuals and the organisations supporting us we are moving in the right direction and the energy and enthusiasm demonstrated at the committee shows that the Garrison has a very exciting future.”

The 112-year-old theatre, which is run by Shetland Arts, has funding from Shetland Charitable Trust until 2020. It received overwhelming support from respondents to a survey last year asking for views on its value and the contribution it makes to the arts scene. And following a meeting at the theatre on Thursday 14th September the new friends group was established.

The new committee will try to make sure the theatre continues to be successful beyond 2020 despite the challenge of meeting the costs of running the historic building.

According to the committee’s constitution, which was drawn up at Tuesday’s meeting, its aim is: “To work towards a shared vision to support, advocate, celebrate, nurture and champion the Garrison Theatre as a thriving, dynamic and inclusive community performance space ensuring the theatre remains as part of the fabric of arts provision within the community.”

Encouraging more people to volunteer at productions, finding out how the building can be used in other ways and exploring potential funding options are among the objectives which the committee has in its sights.

Three levels of volunteering have been decided on. The first signs a person up to the Friends of the Garrison mailing list, the second means a person is willing to help out at productions and the third will see volunteers being trained by Shetland Arts so they can take a more hands-on role in the running of the theatre.

Newly-appointed chairwoman Lynsey Rendall, from Scalloway, felt the committee responded very well to the joint vision.

She said: “I could see the room coming to life. It’s the one thing that unites all the drama groups and other folk beyond that. The aims that are there are the common ground for everyone. That’s a great thing to have found that common ground and then we’ll move forward on that basis.”

She also paid tribute to the efforts of the now-disbanded Garrison Theatre Steering Group, which had first come up with the idea of a new committee.

Shetland Arts’ head of creative opportunities Bryan Peterson said he had enjoyed working with the old steering group and looked forward to helping to foster an effective relationship between the new committee and Shetland Arts.

He added: “Hopefully by getting a lot of heads together that are interested in the sustainable future of the Garrison we can come up with some good ideas on how to secure the long term future.

“The idea is to make sure there’s as many voices and as wide a cross-section of the community as possible.

“It’s people from the community that just want to get involved. You don’t need to be an actor or a technician – you can just generally be interested in the future of the Garrison.”

The office bearers alongside Ms Rendall are: Martin Tregonning (treasurer); Carol Duncan (volunteering co-ordinator); Molly Williams and Carol Duncan (joint secretaries); and Martin Summers (communications and social media).

The next meeting of the committee is Monday 30th October at Islesburgh Community Centre. Any updated information can be found on the Friends of the Garrison Facebook page.


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