Theatre campaigner praises volunteers

Evelyn Archer.  PIC BY ROB LOCK 9-3-2015
Evelyn Archer. PIC BY ROB LOCK 9-3-2015

The driving force behind the restoration of Morecambe’s old theatre has praised the vital work done by volunteers.

Speaking in National Volunteer Week, Evelyn Archer said the Winter Gardens would not function without the tireless efforts of her team of volunteers.

The theatre’s team of unpaid staff help run and maintain the 118-year-old theatre on Morecambe seafront.

Mrs Archer, chairman of the Winter Gardens Preservation Trust, said: “I don’t know what I would do if our volunteers packed up.”

And referring to other voluntary groups like the Morecambe Carnival Committee, Morecambe Heritage Group and the Happy Mount Park volunteers, she said: “I think a lot of things in Morecambe would come to a standstill without volunteers.”

Mrs Archer said her thoughts were with volunteers at Happy Mount Park, who have been left devastated after a bout of vandalism caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to the Bare village park.

She also said the Winter Gardens trustees are now looking to hire employees to work in the theatre too.

“The volunteers know the hours they can do and it’s unfair sometimes to put upon people and ask them to do more,” she said.

“So we are looking for commercial bar staff.”

The 118-year-old theatre closed in 1977 but after the efforts of Mrs Archer and her voluntary organisation the Friends of the Winter Gardens, the building now opens again for one-off events.

Recently the Gardens hosted The Wizard of Oz by a local theatre group, professional wrestling shows and even keep fit classes.

The theatre was granted planning permission at the start of May for a heating system and a new lounge bar has been installed.

During the interview, Mrs Archer also spoke about the nearby Morecambe Heritage Centre, which is currently hosting an exhibition of 150 years of music hall variety and memorabilia.

She had been asked to display Ken Bowe’s vast collection of entertainment posters and autographs in the Winter Gardens but said: “We would love to put it in the Winter Gardens but there’s so much of it, I’d be devastated if anything was to happen to it.

“We have nowhere secure to lock it up and we don’t have enough volunteers to watch it every day.”

She also spoke about her recent decision not to stand in the local elections for Morecambe Town Council. Mrs Archer was instrumental in setting up the council in 2009.

“The Winter Gardens is taking up so much of my time and I’m not getting any younger.

“I talked with my family and they didn’t want me to stand.

“I would love the town council to move forward a lot more than it is doing. Politics shouldn’t go into the town council and I don’t think councillors should have an interest in Lancaster City Council as well as Morecambe Town Council. How can they give that strong voice for Morecambe?”