Sterts receives funding boost to make facilities accessible to all!

Sterts Theatre is delighted to have received new grant funding, which means new facilities will be made accessible to all!

Sterts Theatre and Arts Centre at Upton Cross has been developing a Community Hub with activities for the rural community which has so far played host to a Memory Café, a Men’s Shed, Pilates and Yoga classes, a craft workshop and a Women’s Group. Until now, the charity’s long held ambition to make the theatre more accessible has been held back due to the lack of appropriate facilities.

That’s all set to change thanks to a grant from the Clare Milne Trust which supports people living with disabilities in Devon and Cornwall. The grant from the Trust will enable Sterts to build a ‘Changing Places’ disabled toilet.

A combination of a Cornwall Council grant, volunteer-led fundraising from the ‘Sterts Family’ and the generosity of local businesses and community groups will enable Looe’s former cricket pavilion to be re-purposed at the theatre. The former pavilion was kindly donated by Menheniot Cricket Club and will house a new Box Office, administrative offices and the Changing Places toilet facility. This will enhance capacity in the main building for the Community Hub, enabling more local children and community groups to participate in activities, including the Junior and Senior Theatre groups.

Peter Woodward, Theatre Director, said: “Increasing our capacity and the inclusivity of Sterts has been a long held ambition for the charity and its volunteers. We’re a significant step closer to achieving that and I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to this – we’re so pleased that the community has embraced this vision.

“We are fully committed to developing our accessibility for our whole community and as we emerge from the national lockdown, we want to welcome everyone back to Sterts. We are partners with a number of specialist drama groups, schools and care homes but our toilet facilities have long fallen short of their expectations. We’re so thankful for this grant which complements the other improvements we have made in the theatre for the benefit of both disabled visitors and performers in recent years.”

Just before Christmas, Sterts welcomed Edward Bolitho OBE, the Lord-Lieutenant of Cornwall, to the theatre. The long anticipated visit was for the presentation of the country’s most prestigious accolade for volunteers – the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. Sterts first heard about the recognition in April 2020 but the socially distanced ceremony for around 50 volunteers had been postponed due to the pandemic.

2020 was a challenging year for the theatre which opened following the initial lockdown for a pared-back, socially distanced summer season. Almost 4,500 visitors were welcomed through the theatre’s doors and, to try and ensure the shows were as inclusive as possible, ticket prices were reduced to £5 each.

Chair of trustees Alison Fenn said: “We’re almost entirely reliant on the wonderful volunteers who have worked tirelessly since the theatre was launched over 30 years ago. During this time, volunteers old and new have each contributed to help us succeed in our mission which is that everyone, no matter their age or background, could share a passion for the arts, whether through watching or performance. We are incredibly proud that Sterts has been awarded such a prestigious accolade. The community spirit of our volunteers has been so important in the past 12 months, particularly with the support shown to each other during lockdown.”