The story of ‘Footlights’ really began way back in 2012, when I asked the PCC if I could begin a project to restore the stage at the Hall. It had sadly fallen into disrepair, and I remembered it in its ‘glory days’ when I was a member of the resident Amateur Dramatics Group, The St. Barnabas Players, over 40 years ago.
I applied for a ‘Then & Now’ Grant, set up to commemorate the Centenary of World War One, but was unsuccessful. However, we went on to produce three Commemorative Music Hall Supper Evenings in 2014, 2016 and 2018, as planned.
Ivor Griffiths and ‘The Players’ provided original Drama for the first two of these productions, and all proceeds went towards the refurbishment of the stage. This money, along with a generous Community Grant from Councillor Gerald Dee, provided new curtains and lighting equipment.
We received invaluable ‘hands on’ practical help from Gloucester Arts Council and the Tesco Community Team, in 2015. In one remarkable day, they painted the interior of the Hall and the stage, supplying all materials and labour at no cost to Church at all.
Proceeds from touring productions performed by ‘Rain or Shine’ Theatre Company at the Hall on four occasions, have also helped to boost the stage refurbishment fund, and we are most grateful to them.
Councillor Gerald Dee and I both felt that a Community Group needed to be formed, to ensure that the Hall and developing stage facilities, were used regularly, therefore sharing the benefit of all this new work with as many people as possible. Together, we secured funding from Gloucester City Council, Gloucester City Homes, Barnwood Trust, Gloucester Rotary Club and Gloucestershire Gateway Trust, to set up a voluntary community Nostalgia and Friendship Group for over 55’s at St. Barnabas Hall.
So on 2nd October, 2017, ‘FOOTLIGHTS’ was launched, and became hugely popular, attracting 80 folk each week. There was definitely a need for something designed especially for this age group. We were amazed and delighted at the response. Monday afternoons became like a weekly ‘Family Party’ with our ‘Footlights’ friends!
We had the honour of being acknowledged as ‘Community Champions’ in Tuffley, and we were nominated for Best Community Project for the Believe in Gloucester Awards in 2019.
Our unique blend of tea, cake, singalongs, nostalgia, quizzes, old style entertainment, friendship and fun, proved to be a winning formula, and we were well established and flying high after two and a half years, until Covid-19 brought everything to a halt….
Undaunted, all through the Lockdown we have been keeping everyone connected through phone calls and our ‘Jolly Jukebox’ Request Service. For this, we received an ‘Unsung Champions’ Award from Richard Graham MP, given to those who helped the City of Gloucester during the Covid-19 Crisis…. What a great honour….
The need to find an alternative way of keeping people together and supported through the Pandemic, led to ‘RADIO FOOTLIGHTS’, which launched on 20th October 2020. It provides a similar mix of chat, poetry, music, song, jokes, news and fun that we used to enjoy all together at the Hall on Monday afternoons.
We applied for the Covid Recovery and Growing Our Communities Funding from both Gloucester City and County Councils, (through Councillor Andrew Miller) and we are very grateful for their support. We’ve used the generous Grants to obtain the equipment necessary to produce the podcasts.
Alongside this, we have also published an 8-page magazine called ‘The Encourager’, with news, information, and a bit of sparkle! 100 copies have gone out to all ‘Footlighters’ and anyone else who has expressed an interest.
‘RADIO FOOTLIGHTS’ has already attracted over 400 views on Youtube, and we invite anyone of any age to listen in! Become an ‘Audio Footlighter’ – you are very welcome to join us! We aim to continue delivering our podcasts monthly for as long as it takes, and we hope that this audio version of our ‘Footlights’ style Entertainment will boost morale and keep spirits buoyant until we are able to meet again at the Hall during safer times…
Until then, we say ‘Long May the Footlights Shine’!.....