Our theatre staff striving to stay open now should all take a bow

Come Closer

with Jimmy Cricket

Celebrity comic Jimmy Cricket gives it some welly, still inviting audiences to “come closer” after 50 years

Jimmy Cricket getting ready for a performance

Have you heard this one?

There’s a story that a motorist, who was driving through Blackpool, wound down his window and shouted at a passer by “How do I get to the Grand Theatre?” The passer by shouted back “Practice!”

It takes plenty of practice to get to Blackpool Grand Theatre

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What makes that story so sad and poignant is that no matter how much practice you and I do, because of the devastating effect this pandemic has had on the live entertainment industry, there may not be theatres like the Grand to strut our stuff in the future.

Designed by the famous Victorian Architect Frank Matcham in 1894, the superb decor of the interior has audiences transfixed even before the show starts.

To be fair to the artistic director at the Grand, Ruth Eastwood, she like some others at theatres around the country is making a valiant effort to put a panto on this year.

Restrictions on the number of cast members, not to mention the ban on juvenile dance troupes, mean the shows could be somewhat different. But please go if you can as I’m sure it will still be great.

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We really have to take our hats off to the brave theatre managers and directors up and down the country who are taking that leap of faith and putting a panto on.

Also the fact that the Grand has been given £483,666 from the government’s COVID-19 Recovery Grant Scheme is brilliant news.

I’d like to put in a feel good story here, dear readers, about one theatre in particular that survived the odds even before COVID-19 descended on us.

It concerns a gentleman called Vic Farrow, who lives on the Isle of Wight.

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Vic owns one of the most sought after autograph books in the country.

He once chased after Frank Sinatra’s getaway car outside the Royal Albert Hall until Frank succumbed, wound down the window and scribbled his name into Vic’s book.

Vic’s dad owned a cinema on the island and his son inherited his entrepreneurial gifts. I was just one of the many artistes that he booked to play the Shanklin Theatre over the years.

That is until the local council decided to sell off the theatre to property developers.

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However, little did they realise they were up against a man with tenacity, energy and a passion for live theatre.

Vic got his local community together. The first thing they did was to get the theatre Grade II listing, which meant it couldn’t be pulled down.

When the council back-tracked he then set up a trust and bought the building from them for a quid. This all happened in 2008 with a paid staff of four and a team of big hearted volunteers!

The Shanklin Theatre is now one of the most thriving theatres in the whole of the UK.

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As Vic himself says: “Any profits are ploughed back into the upkeep of the venue.

“Our object isn’t to make money, but to provide the live theatre experience for people. And, as long as we don’t lose money doing that, we’ll all be happy”.

Yes folks, in these unsettling times, Vic is an inspiration for everyone in the live entertainment industry. We salute his achievement.

Take care and stay safe and healthy as we carry on our journey through this storm!To catch up with what Jimmy is up to visit www.jimmycricket.co.uk website.

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