£750,000 project to create new theatre

belper School has submitted a planning application that would see it create a state-of-the-art community theatre for the town.

The ambitious £750,000 project would, according to deputy head teacher John Young, mean the school had a first-rate theatre and “probably be one of the best around”.

Supported by funding from the Ryklow Charitable Trust, the John O’Gaunt’s Way school wants to extend its current theatre facilities and has submitted a plan to Amber Valley Borough Council.

It would become the Belper Community Theatre and would be available to the people in the town.

Mr Young said: “It is a brilliant project really.

“It will mean that we have excellent theatre facilities for our own students to put on their own shows and concerts.

“It will involve them in what happens in the theatre world.

“When the facilities are in it will be as big as the Guildhall in Derby in terms of audience size. The use of the space could be quite flexible.”

The new theatre would include better sight lines, an improved lighting and sound system, new stage, new dressing rooms, a green room and luxurious tiered seating.

Mr Young said: “It is a completely different beast.

“The current theatre was state-of-the-art when the school was opened in 1973.

“But it has got a bit worn and outdated. The stage is old and difficult to manage. The changing rooms are not very good, and the seats are old.”

Community groups in Belper are also set to benefit from the theatre, which the school hopes is set to receive the go-ahead from planners soon.

“It will also be open to community groups in Belper to use,” said Mr Young. “We are being given the money on the understanding the theatre is open to community use as well as the school.

“We already have groups who use our current theatre, so this will also improve things for them.”

A spokeswoman said: “The much-needed modernisation will mean that our community user groups, and the school students, will have an enhanced and superior setting for their performances and shows.”

The Ryklow Trust was established by the late Mr AB Williamson, together with his wife Kathleen. He asked that some of the money he left be used to promote performing arts in the Belper area.