Burnley Civic Trust Heritage Image Collection

A Dream Come True

24 Sep 1983
Quarry Theatre, Heasandford Quarry, Queen's Park Road, Burnley

Media Ref: BE83ng23839_b
A Dream Come True
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Celebrity opener David Fielder (third right) with members of the cast of "Camelot" at Burnley's new Quarry Theatre.

A 10-year dream came true when Burnley's new youth theatre was opened on Saturday evening, 24th September 1983 - but not without its own slice of real-life drama. A major effort by youth theatre workers, led by Mick Dawson, who had slept on the site for many weeks and worked an unbroken 36-hour stint, meant that the show was able to go on as planned. Even the electricity to the theatre at Heasandford Quarry, off Queen's Park Road, was not laid on to the building until the week before the big event.

Chairman Mr Peter Edwards said: "The scheme has resulted from a tremendous effort over 18 months by our own adult workers, young members and the youth training scheme. We now hope to go from strength to strength, gaining new members and giving young people the chance to learn all aspects of the theatre, from acting to workshop duties. It's been a real triumph, especially in the last few weeks. Mick Dawson has put in a tremendous amount of effort, sleeping in a caravan on site to protect the theatre from possible vandalism." The 94-seat theatre was opened by Burnley-born professional actor David Fielder, before the curtain went up on the first performance of the group's current production of "Camelot". Its name was a closely guarded secret until Mr Fielder opened a sealed envelope containing the information. He announced that it would in future be known as the "Quarry Theatre," taking its name from Heasandford Quarry, which has been the group's headquarters since the Welfare State Theatre Group moved off about six years ago. Mr Fielder, whose real name is Pickles, is an old boy of Burnley Grammar School, with extensive experience in repertory and youth theatre work, both as an actor and assistant director. He performed the opening ceremony before a 50-strong audience and praised the efforts of the group and helpers in getting its own performance area at a time of cuts in public spending. Among the guests at the opening was Burnley MP Councillor, Peter Pike, whose own daughter, Jane was appearing in the show as a chorus girl.

The theatre is housed in a timber building, which for the past five years has been used for storage and rehearsals. About 18 months ago the Manpower Services Commission heard of the youth theatre's hopes of one day having its own performance area and offered to provide the labour through the youth opportunity training scheme. The scheme got the backing of Burnley Borough Council and two excellent supervisors, Dick Wane and Jeff Livesey, were recruited for the oversignt of the work. Leading lights Mr Dawson and Mr Edwards are both drama teachers, Mr Dawson is head of drama at Towneley High School and Mr Edwards is English and drama teacher at Gawthorpe. Burnley Youth Theatre, which has previously used drama facilities at Towneley High School and Burnley College for performances, caters for two separate groups of youngsters - the 11-15 and the 16-21 age groups. Mr Dawson said "The opening of the theatre is not an end, but a new beginning. Having our own theatre will allow us to extend and diversify our activities. The youth training scheme is soon to begin work on a new rehearsal building at the site.

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