Happy Birthday Theatre By The Lake

Keswick’s much-loved Theatre by the Lake turned seventeen last week having staged an impressive 139 home-produced plays since it was officially opened by Dame Judi Dench and Michael Williams in December 1999.

It opened on the shores of Derwentwater only just on time and on budget having been willed into existence by passionate theatre lovers and major donations by local theatre and music organisations, the Foundation for Sports and Arts, Keswick Town Council, Allerdale Borough Council, Cumbria County Council and The National Lottery.

It replaced The Century Theatre, more fondly known as the ‘Blue Box’, an extraordinary mobile theatre which had toured the county in post-war Britain before eventually settling in Lakeside carpark in Keswick in 1975.

Now firmly established as a world-class venue and enjoying a reputation for high production values, it has found a loyal audience in the people of Cumbria and visitors who come from far and wide to enjoy the Lake District.

The very first opening night was preceded by an open dress rehearsal for construction workers and their families, volunteers and staff as a thank-you for their tremendous efforts. The acting company at the time included Roger Delves-Broughton and Peter Rylands who are also currently starring in this year’s Summer Season.

Many young actors have begun their careers treading the boards at the Keswick theatre and many others have gone onto career success performing on stage nationally or internationally, in Oscar-winning films, TV documentaries or soap operas including EastEnders and Coronation Street.

Patric Gilchrist, Theatre by the Lake’s Executive Director said, “It’s been a seventeen year roller-coaster ride. In those early years it was just a question of survival. However, now that we are well into our teenage years, perhaps we can feel confident that Theatre by the Lake is here to stay.

“Our survival, and our success, has been down to the support of so many people: our funders and supporters, our staff and, above all, our fantastic volunteers who offer a unique welcome to the people without whom all our work would be for nothing – our audiences.”

Theatre by the Lake is also delighted to be nominated for the UK’s Most Welcoming Theatre Award 2016 and the winners of this year’s award will be decided by a public vote. The awards are the only nationwide scheme to honour outstanding achievement in theatre throughout the United Kingdom.

Rachel Swift, Head of Communications at Theatre by the Lake said, “Theatre by the Lake plays a central role in our local community and continues to grow from strength to strength. We are excited to be in the running for this award and hope that supporters of the theatre can take a minute to vote for us and celebrate seventeen years of success.”

Votes can be cast at uktheatre.org/vote and the closing deadline is 12:00 on Mon 19 September. The 12 regional and national winners of the vote will be announced on 29 September and the overall winner will be announced at the UK Theatre Awards on 9 October. Voters can also enter into a draw with a chance to win £200 worth of Theatre Tokens.

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