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Mirfield given go-ahead to restore quarry theatre

21 March 2014

SAM ATKINS

A big space: Guy Laurie, the Community of the Resurrection's general manager, at the theatre site

A big space: Guy Laurie, the Community of the Resurrection's general manager, at the theatre site

PLANNERS have given the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield permission to restore a derelict open-air theatre.

The theatre, built in a former quarry in the community's grounds, once hosted speakers such as Keir Hardie and Emmeline Pankhurst. It was also where the Mirfield-born actor Sir Patrick Stewart made one of his earliest stage appearances.

The natural amphitheatre was created more than a century ago, when stone was quarried to build houses near by. It was turned into a theatre by the community soon after it was established there in 1898, and used for sermons, Bible classes, plays, and political meetings. Originally, it accommodated audiences of up to 6000, but it was abandoned in 1976, and fell into disrepair.

 

Last week, Kirklees Council approved a £500,000 restoration. It includes recycled plastic seating, a grassed picnic area, and a retractable rain-cover over the stage.

The Superior of the Community, Fr George Guiver CR, told the Huddersfield Daily Examiner: "We need to make the most of our income and make the site pay. That is the modern way. This could be a really remarkable facility for Mirfield, and we want to invite the community back."

The Brothers hope to stage 14 performances a year - all matinées - between May and September, for audiences of up to 750. Schools will be encouraged to stage shows, as well as professional and amateur companies.

The general manager at the Community, Guy Laurie, said that talks had been held with various groups, including Opera North, Huddersfield Choral Society, and Huddersfield University. "We made contact to see if there was a genuine interest in bringing the theatre back to a working life," he said. "We didn't want it to be a museum piece, but a venue that has a real relevance today."

 

Eric Firth, a Kirklees councillor, described the venture as "a fantastic opportunity".

The Community, which now has 18 Brothers, shares its life with the College of the Resurrection - the theological college which has 30 resident students training for the priesthood - and a retreat house.

In recent years, it has raised more than £900,000 to modernise its premises, much of it from auctions of donated and redundant artefacts. The next auction, on 29 March, will help to raise funds for the theatre restoration. 

 

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