December 13 2013 Latest news:
Monday, September 2, 2013
World-renowned sculptor Antony Gormley hailed a theatre in his Norfolk home village as an example of “regional internationalism” after formally opening its £500,000 extension.
Mr Gormley is a patron of the Westacre Theatre, whose new building comprises a workshop and creative arts space, a gallery extension, a café bar and an external terrace overlooking the meadow leading down to the River Nar.
The new facility is aimed at boosting the range of performances and youth workshops, attracting new audiences and opportunities for training in the performing arts.
It marks the completion of the first phase of an ambitious £1.5m development programme which aims to add a 150-seat circular auditorium by 2015 to augment the current 80-seat studio theatre, housed in a converted former Methodist Chapel.
Mr Gormley, best-known for his Angel of the North sculpture near Newcastle, was asked to be a patron of the theatre when he moved into the village, near Swaffham, after buying High House in 2010.
He said: “I knew about the theatre when I moved here – you couldn’t miss it. It is a wonderful story of evolution. You have a Methodist Hall that was used for one kind of thing at its inception, but now becomes a place where performances take place that allow us to see ourselves through daily life re-enacted.
“It made me realise that regional internationalism is a real possibility. I don’t think it matters where you are on the face of this globalised world, but you can make things which can speak to literally everybody, as wide and as local as can be.
“It is really exciting. In many ways, it is a place apart. I like the idea of putting a sculpture on a tidal plain on a beach, because it is as far away from the gallery as you can get. This place is about getting theatre as far away from the West End as possible, and putting it in a field to see what happens – and what happens is that people come and hang around in that field.
“I think it is lovely if you believe in art at all, not as an object but as a possibility.”
Mr Gormley said he had acted in the past but “was never really good at it”, and was now a fan of dance.
“I enjoy live performance,” he said. “Why? Because in a time when all of us spend so much time looking at virtual imagery, processed and transmitted digitally at whatever resolution, there is still no substitute for live performance.”
Among the 200 invited guests at the opening were South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss and representatives from Norfolk County Council and the district councils in Breckland and West Norfolk, all organisations which had contributed grant funding along with a number of charitable foundations.
There were also many of the volunteers and trustees who keep the venue alive, with performances by members of the youth theatre.
Clive Hadfield, chairman of the Westacre Arts Foundation, said: “A building is just a building. It is what happens within that building that’s important, and that is what we want to promote and support.
“First and foremost, it is going to allow us to develop the creative work of young people and with others within the community. We are running classes of different sorts, like painting and textiles, and different kinds of creative workshops which we had not been able to do before.
“We also want to offer the facility for things like conferences and away days, and hopefully some of the public bodies who have supported us will want to make use of it.”
The theatre’s second celebrity patron, actor and TV presenter Stephen Fry, also offered his congratulations in the form of a letter, which says: “I have been pleased as a patron to the theatre to see the exciting range of the Westacre arts programme, which I know delights audiences across the county. I welcome too, the important contribution made to developing the confidence and skills of young people who enjoy the performing arts through opportunities provided at the theatre.”