FIGHT TO STOP CURTAIN COMING DOWN

July 28, 2008 1:15 PM

A drama and training group for young people is in danger of being evicted from its base in St Nicholas Hospital, with its theatre being closed.

Since 1992 First Act Theatre Group has put on performances at the Grade 2 listed Jubilee Theatre inside the hospital main building. The Group was invited by the former Mental Health Trust to bring the beautiful and historic theatre back to its original use, as it had fallen into disuse and disrepair.

Now the current Trust wants to close the theatre and turn it to alternative uses, probably offices.

Nearly 60,000 people have attended shows over the past 16 years and more than 3000 young people from the ages of 7 to 19 have received training in drama and all aspects of stage management such as lighting and set design.

Members have included local young people who have gone on to great things on stage and screen, such as Ant and Dec, Jill Halfpenny, Donna Air, Lynne Wilmot, Dale Meeks (Emmerdale), Katherine Monaghan (Footballers' Wives) and Cheryl Tweedy of Girls Aloud.

Stuart Bagnall, chairman of First Act, said: "By bringing so many people into the hospital, we have helped the Trust in its aim of breaking down barriers as to how people think about mental health."

Councillor David Down said: "It's very disappointing to hear that this group, which has achieved so much with local young people, is to be given notice to leave.

"We understand that this would probably signal the end of the theatre group as well as the end of the Jubilee as a functioning theatre."

A campaign has been launched to save the Jubilee Theatre - you can join in by signing the online petition http://www.firstacttheatre.com/campaign.htm or write to the Trust chairman Mr Jules Preston, St Nicholas Hospital, Jubilee Road, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne NE3 3XT