Delight as royal award recognises volunteers at Wigan Little Theatre

Prince Charles at Wigan Little Theatre
Prince Charles at Wigan Little Theatre

Just weeks after Prince Charles came a visiting, Wigan Little Theatre has received further royal approval.

It was revealed today that the folk who run and perform at the popular venue have been given a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

Sir Ian McKellens 80th birthday one-man tour. Picture by www.nickfairhurstphotographer.com

Sir Ian McKellens 80th birthday one-man tour. Picture by www.nickfairhurstphotographer.com

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WLT was nominated for this prestigious prize – the MBE for voluntary organisations and highest award for voluntary groups – last summer.

An assessor from the Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester’s office visited the theatre to discover the work of the volunteers and hear from a range of members how being involved has affected the quality of their lives.

Bosses say that preparing for the assessment made them realise for the first time just how many volunteer hours it takes to put on a production.

After making many estimations, it worked out at 1,018 man hours to put on a play with a small cast and an uncomplicated set, and this increased to about 4,782 hours for a pantomime with a large cast and many varying sets!

WLT also needed to provide evidence of the benefits people get from being involved, whether they are members, audiences or supporters.

The assessor heard from members that they loved the camaraderie, the fact that they could get involved in every aspect of the running of the theatre and that the skills they learn are completely transferable from and to to any other work or leisure activity.

Organisers said they were also proud to prove that their audiences are completely engaged, because they know they return, season after season, to support and provide a healthy ticket sales income.

This income subsidises the development and innovation the organisation strives for in presenting the artistic values they achieve.

WLT is a unique venue in the borough and has been a constant on the cultural and artistic scene for over 70 years, but didn’t take the success as a foregone conclusion.

The assessment is rigorous and has to meet the criteria set by the office of the Lord Lieutenant, who is the Queen’s representative in Greater Manchester.

It is then passed on to the National Award Committee, which makes recommendations to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), who send a final list to the Queen for her approval.

Newly-appointed WLT chairman Ryan Shaw said: “We are so delighted to receive this award.

“It’s the icing on the cake for a very exciting season for Wigan Little Theatre. The award is for everyone who has contributed to the running of the theatre, whatever the skill, ability or talent they have to offer.

“Whilst our organisation is completely voluntary, we think that what we do is to a very high professional standard and is indistinguishable to many other commercial venues.

“We always want new people to join us and the time they can give is entirely up to them and is always appreciated. The type of people we need range from actors, technicians, set builders and stage crew, bar and catering, and box office and administrations.

“As we near the close of the 2018/19 season, we are very excited about the 2019/20 season and we’d love to welcome new members to help us bring high quality, wide-ranging, traditional and innovative theatre to Wigan borough, as we have for over 70 years.

“Anyone wishing to become a member and be part of our success can download a membership for at wiganlittletheatre.co.uk or get in touch through our Facebook page.”

Winners of the award receive a certificate, a piece of commemorative crystal and permission to use the Queen’s Award logo on all material such as posters, programmes and brochures.

It has been quite a season for WLT. As well as the Prince of Wales’s recent visit, it also played host to two sell-out nights of Sir Ian McKellen’s 80th birthday one-man tour.