Members of Wigan Little Theatre attended a grand ceremony to receive the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
WLT was nominated for this prize - the MBE for voluntary organisations and highest award for voluntary groups - last year and 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 over seven decades.
The honour was officially conferred at an awards ceremony held at Gorton Monastery, officiated by her majesty’s The Lord Lieutenant, Warren J Smith JP and the Vice Lieutenant, Paul Griffiths DL.
Bosses say theatre members, past and present, have contributed endless hours of work, giving their skills and talents freely over every area including on-stage, back-stage, front of house, lighting and sound gallery, bar and coffee lounge.
Chairman Ryan Shaw said: “It’s an honour to receive this award, our members thoroughly deserve such recognition.
“Their work over the past three quarters of a century has been invaluable in providing entertainment in the borough, making WLT a beacon for performing arts.
“At the start of our 2019/20 season, we’re looking forward to many more years of success.”
Preparing for the assessment made WLT chiefs 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!
The theatre 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 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.
The award came as a second coup for WLT, having earlier this year being graced with a visit by Prince Charles.