Swindon Arts Centre will open its doors for a morning of celebrations on Saturday 10th September to mark its 60th Anniversary at the current site on Devises Road, Old Town.
From 10am – 1pm members of the public will be able to walk freely around the Arts Centre, including inside the Auditorium and through the backstage areas, where staff and volunteers will be on hand to answer questions. Archive materials will be on display throughout the building, which will include photographs and newspaper cuttings documenting the Centre’s history as well as a variety of show programmes and posters from different decades.
There will also be a short presentation by former Director Clarry Bean and a series of mini performances on stage courtesy of The Western Players, Swindon Festival of Poetry and the Swindon Recital Series. There will be activities for children including cup-cake decorating and a tombola, and the opportunity to try on costumes in the Theatre’s dressing rooms. The Café will also be open for drinks and snacks throughout the morning.
Originally based in a leased Methodist Church hall on Regent Street as of November 1946, the Swindon Arts Centre was the very first municipal Arts Centre in the United Kingdom. With support from the Mayor of Swindon’s Community Fund the opening was championed by Chief Librarian and Curator of Swindon Borough Council, Harold Jolliffe who documented its story in his book ‘Arts Centre Adventure’.
When Regents Street’s growing rental prices finally began to exceed the council’s budget Jolliffe oversaw the Arts Centre’s move and official opening on site at another of their properties, the Bradford Hall on Devizes Road. This venue had previously been used for community dances and therefore already had some of the technical facilities needed for a new Arts Centre, which would open on 1 September 1956.
In the new millennium Swindon Arts Centre would go through two major refurbishments. The 2002/2003 revamp was a collaboration between Swindon Borough Council and Friends of Swindon Arts Centre, and saw the introductions of a foyer lift, new lighting, accessible toilets and auditorium seats.
Later, in 2010, the venue’s ground floor was completely redesigned to create a new performance studio, café and space for the Swindon Old Town Library. In early 2015 Swindon Borough Council awarded the management contract to run the Swindon Arts Centre to HQ Theatres & Hospitality, in conjunction with the Wyvern Theatre.
The Arts Centre 60th Anniversary Open Day is on Sat 10 September from 10am-1pm. Entry is free.