About the Rossendale Players
The Rossendale Players have been producing plays in the Rossendale Valley for over 80 years. In 1936 members of the W.E.A. dramatic literature class formed a drama section intent on transferring plays from the page to the stage. However the W.E.A’s rules did not permit actual performances, so the enthusiasts broke away calling themselves The Rossendale Players and rented a wooden hut on the bleak hillside above Stacksteads.
The first public performance, Somerset Maugham’s ‘The Circle’ was performed in Waterfoot Conservative Club’s Victoria Hall which was to be their home for the next 14 years, rising from 2 to 4 productions a year. Even during the war continuity was unbroken.
Following the 50th production however the Victoria Hall was converted into a nightclub and the hunt was on for new premises, hopefully to become a permanent theatre. Within 12 months they had leased and converted a large schoolroom, St John’s Cloughfold, into a theatre with financial support from Rawtenstall council, local businesses and individuals.
Productions increased to 5 or 6 a year for 7 or 8 performances each, playing to a capacity of 240 nightly. The society earned a growing reputation throughout the north west and gained successes in several drama festivals. In spite of this success and a stay of 14 years in this building, negotiations to renew the lease were unsuccessful, and, in 1964 a further move was unavoidable.
With scenery, props, lighting and costumes stored in various places, a long nomadic existence ensued with productions in numerous venues and often reduced to only 2 a year, but culminating in a slightly more settled state at Bacup leisure hall .
The need for a more permanent hall launched the ‘First Stage Appeal’ in 1990 in a determined effort to raise funds whilst searching for a building to become a permanent theatre. By May 1994 enough had been raised to buy the former Bethel Baptist lecture hall in Waterfoot.
Intense fundraising continued while work proceeded to convert the building into an intimate theatre. A new exiting chapter began with the opening of THE NEW MILLENNIUM THEATRE in September 2000 (appropriately with a revival of ‘The Circle’) just a few hundred yards from the Victoria Hall where the first production had played in 1936.
Since then the society’s success has continued with many acclaimed performances, including the award winning ‘someone who’ll watch over me’ which returned the players to festival success winning 3 major awards against National competition at Fleetwood in 2002.
As well as our own productions the society occasionally hosts visits by other drama groups including plays from Todmorden, Burnley, Blackburn, Colne and Oswaldtwistle. A mixed bag of social events is enjoyed at the theatre by members and friends.
The 2011/12 season was a celebration of the Players 75th birthday during which the society won three awards from GMDF for the revival of ‘Someone who’ll watch over me’. The 2012/13 season saw member Dorrie Partington awarded best supporting actress by GMDF for her role in Alan Ayckbourn’s ‘Absured Person Singular’. The 2015/16 season celebrated Carole Bardsley’s award for best supporting actress in Arthur Miller’s ‘All my Sons’. The Players continue to be nominated and win awards regularly.
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