Council grant means Chatsworth Arts Centre expansion is now well underway

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When Long Eaton’s Chatsworth Arts Centre was gutted by a tragic fire in 2003 many of its theatre groups and performers were forced to find venues elsewhere.

But the centre - made up of the 180-seat Duchess Theatre and multipurpose Devonshire Suite and John Barker Studio - is now thriving after re-opening in 2010 following a £250,000 rebuild with help from local government, businesses and generous member donations.

And the centre is deemed of such value to the community that it has been earmarked for a £33,000 grant for the creation of an additional multipurpose community space which could be used by outside groups.

Chairman Mike Beedham said: “The Duchess Theatre is so successful it is absolutely incredible.

“Let’s just say if you belonged to a little choir and wanted to come down and do a concert you would not get a date this year.

“In fact, we only have two weeks in 2018 that are not already booked.”

But the well-used venue - which also hosts a number of non-theatre related activities such as barn dancing, birthday parties and a coffee morning which has been running for 15 years - is in need of a lick of paint here and there.

Mike added: “The facilities here are completely swamped. As chairman, I’ve been thinking of extending for a year or so to address the issues.

“But we have had to put the plans on the back-burner due to lack of funding and without Derbyshire County Council’s help it would not have been possible.”

Now, thanks to the council’s generous donation, the completely voluntarily-run charity has already started building work on extended toilet facilities and foyer, and a new lounge and coffee bar.

Roland Hosker, Derbyshire county councillor for Long Eaton Nottingham Road and Central, said: “This is something for the whole community as far as I am concerned.

“As ward councillor I am incredibly proud of our community theatre.”

Mike added: “The Community Priorities Programme is set up to help groups like us who could expand if they had more cash.”

“So we are delighted that we have been chosen as one of the organisations that could offer more for the community.

“We see a lot of the same people down there every Friday night - they see what we have on and don’t need to go elsewhere.

“Obviously there are not all here for theatre but its not unusual to see someone who came for a barn dance at a show a few weeks later.”

At present the Duchess Theatre is home to between 15-20 resident theatre groups and 25 guest groups.

It also hosts countless one-off performances from courtesy of acts as diverse as comedian Bernie Clifton and Nottingham Jazz Orchestra.

Mike estimates that the extension build will be completed by Easter but a landscaping project afterwards will still need to be funded.

As part of the fundraising the charity is offering individuals and organisations the opportunity to sponsor a block paver.

For more information visit www.duchess-theatre.com /landscaping/.