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Save Our Stage – Protect Performing Arts in North Dorset

This village of Marnhull (North Dorset) has a long tradition of having an annual pantomime performance and a few years back a group formed to take over from the long-running group and keep that tradition alive. That group now faces a new challenge and it ironically comes in the form of a committee set-up to improve things for clubs in the village.

I am sure that all local residents are all aware of (and hopefully contributed to) the fundraising for the Village Hall Extension. However, what you may not be aware of, is that the steering committee seem to have already made their mind up that the best way forward is to give up on fundraising and to “extend” the hall by ripping out the existing stage.

Remember those amazing plans to extend the hall and have it so that it opens onto the field? They sounded great didn’t they and certainly got the community buy in. Well this plan is being scrapped despite being 3/4 of the way there with fundraising. Instead, their plan is to remove the stage and create a storage extension on the back, which will somehow safely house 130 chairs and the new expensive flat-pack staging, along with the 18 trolleys worth of storage that is conveniently under the existing stage. Sounds rather optimistic to me…

I mention flatpack staging – that is the solution presented by the committee. While it would have the benefit of being moveable, it instantly rules out most uses. No club is going to spend an hour (chargeable of course) to prepare a stage for their session, then break it down again afterwards. When asked about the staging, they say they do not know how tall, or the size of the staging, but it is expected to be considerably smaller than the current stage, let alone the stage extension. Personally, I don’t understand how any decision can be made when you don’t know the cost, or even practicality of a key element. Likewise, there is no replacement presented for the stage lighting, hall music set-up, curtains, backstage area and back-drops. I will say that there have been some suggestions today of solutions to some of these issues, but in reality, it results in large costs (not factored into the current plans), health & safety nightmares and would not really be fit for purpose.

While it is certainly true that the stage does not get as much use as it could, with the Panto being the primary user for 6 months of the year, it has huge potential and some marketing would surely increase usage. Potential uses include:

  • Talent Shows
  • School Performances
  • Dance Classes
  • Seminars/Talks
  • Fitness Classes
  • Live Music
  • Comedy Nights
  • And so much more…

In short: The stage is a great asset to the village hall!

Many villagers go to great lengths to protect the heritage of the village – from taking over unused phone boxes, to fighting against new road signs, property development and phone masts. Surely we’re not going to let them kill a village tradition just to gain a tiny bit of extra space in the hall that only exists when no stage is used?

We are told that “no decision has been made” in regards to the stage, but the committee have made their plans very clear that they wish for the stage to be removed. I implore you to help save our stage – sign our petition before 15th November when the decision will be official and help us show the committee how valuable the stage is for generations to come!


Chris Ryu "Chameleon"

Chris has been a developer for over 15 years. Known for his unique experience crosses over many fields.

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