John Peel Theatre building builtThe Salvation Army in Wigton fundraised and commissioned the building. The foundation stone was laid in 1884 and the topping out stone is dated 1885. One member, Mr William J Carrick was particularly active in driving the project.
From The Wigton Advertiser, October 25th 1884:
The work of designing (the building) was entrusted to Mr Robert Atkinson, of West Street; plans were prepared by him and submitted to the Local Board, and these were approved.
Through the kindness of Mr Isaac Pattinson (Westmorland House) an excellent site has been secured adjoining the premises of Mr Redmayne, and it is arranged to erect thereon a plain neat building (all architectural display being dispensed with) suitable for the holding of meetings similar to those in vogue in the Salvation Army.
William J. Carrick died
Mission Hall refurbishedFrom The Wigton Advertiser Saturday November 6th 1937:
Re-opening of the Wigton Salvation Mission
Course all clear for Winter’s work
The earnest workers at the Wigton Salvation Mission are entering upon the winter’s good work in pleasanter surroundings. The interior of the hall has undergone much-needed decoration at the hands of Mr Sanderson, and the re-opening meeting on Tuesday night found the hall filled with people of all denominations. It was a hearty meeting under the genial chairmanship of Mr. William Iveson. …
The Chairman expressed the pleasure it gave him to declare the Mission Hall re-opened after its ‘Spring cleaning’, towards which all the members had contributed in some way.
Wigton Theatre Club is formed
Club’s first performanceThey performed Yes and No, in Wigton Secondary School hall.
May - September 1958
Wigton Theatre Club moves to St Mary's Parish Rooms (later Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witness)From Phil Martin (via Facebook): The mention of the new lighting in the [newspaper] report revives vivid memories of my dad building all the lighting kit at home to use in the club’s new venue. He used Carr’s biscuit tins, painted matte black and fixed together into various banks for footlights, overhead spot lights etc., coloured perspex(?) sheets for the effects, and a whole stack of switches, dimmers and other equipment sourced from Strand Electrics. The photo shows him with Tom Hadwin and John Housby demonstrating the new control panel.
The club moves to the John Peel TheatreRedmayne’s bought the current theatre building from the Salvation Army, and rented it to the theatre club for a nominal fee.
Wigton Theatre Club buys The John Peel TheatreThe land around the theatre was to be redeveloped in 1988, so the club purchased the building in order to ensure its continued use as a theatre.
New corridor and toiletsThe theatre club refurbished the toilets and roofed over the side alleyway making and indoor route to the toilets and a much more comfortable experience for audiences.
Weekly theatre skills workshops startEstablished for young club members to attend classes to prepare them for taking part in performances. The workshop rapidly became popular and has a long waiting list.
February - April 2015
Major theatre refurbishmentArts Council and Allerdale District Council grants (along with others - see sponsors page) enabled a major refurbishment. The removal of two rows of seats allowed for an ambitious project which reopened one of the original windows and moved the internal corridor wall back to create a welcoming bar area. A new, larger and easily accessible technical box was built. Club members also cleaned, repaired and painted all of the seats and repainted the theatre interior.
New website launchedYes, this one!
Open Mic Nights startA regular Open Mic Night was established and quickly became popular.
Exterior signage redesigned and replaced
Theatre sound system upgradedThanks to a generous donation of equipment from Long Meg Band, the theatre received a complete upgrade of its sound system,enabling it to more easily cope with the increasingly technical demands of visiting bands and open mic nights.
Winners of Cumbria Life’s Culture Awards - Amateur Society of the Year
Club performs its first Shakespeare playIn August 2017 Wigton Theatre Club put on its first Shakespeare production. Romeo and Juliet was performed with a black box stage and minimalist, modern setting. The production was well received by large and enthusiastic audiences.
Winners of a Marks and Spencer Energy Fund GrantWigton Theatre Club won a grant of £12,000 to install solar panel to improve the comfort of the building and preserve its fabric.
Lighting system upgradedThanks to a very generous grant of £2396 from Wigton Coop, the club purchased LED parcans, 2 intelligent moving heads and a new Avolites Titan One virtual lighting console.
Stage improvementsStage working and wing lights were upgraded and stage storage access improved with the addition of doors at the front of the stage.
January - February 2018
Backstage improvementsWork continued on improving dressing rooms, props, tools and costume storage started in 2017.
Solar panels installedThanks to the M&S energy grant, the theatre can now be kept warm and dry through the coldest months and the theatre is more comfortable for members and audiences.
New doors for the theatre
Theatre roof repaired
Refurbished seats and new flooringThe original seats (estimated to be around 100 years old) were looking very shabby. Around 60 of the original seats were sympathetically restored, to return them to their former splendour whilst maintaining their history.
The remaining seats are modern linked seats, commissioned to fit with the original seats. They allow for more flexible seating and performance space and can be removed to create a dance floor.
Theatre closed due to the Covid-19 pandemicFor the first time in its history, the John Peel Theatre shut its doors for live performances, along with every other theatre in the country; amateur and professional.
Work was carried out during the closure to refurbish the toilets, green room and the theatre's sound system, whilst play readings, some social events and Open Mic Nights (from June 2020) moved onto Zoom.
Virtual Open Mic Nights start via ZoomThese grow in popularity and have attendees from all over the UK, Ireland, Canada and the United States.
At Christmas, The John Peel Zoomers collaborate on a cover of The Fairytale of New York, produced by Ian Kellett. It has had over 7000 views to date.