Don’t let the curtain come down
Youth theatre faces closure unless it can find new home
Ashford’s much-loved youth theatre could be forced to bring the final curtain down after 33 years of existence – unless it can find a new home. Founded in January 1983, Ashford Youth Theatre has hosted 64 main productions. Its first was Othello and the most recent was Doctor Faustus in September last year. But one of Ashford’s longest running theatrical companies could soon come to an end following an eviction notice from Ashford Borough Council earlier this year. The non-profit making group has been told to quit their home of the last 13 years in Dover Place, and desperately needs to find a new home. The community group has filled six shipping containers with its theatre equipment, but has nowhere to house everything.
Stella Critchley, who co-founded the theatre, said: “When I look back at the young people who have gained so much confidence and life experience from us, it would be such a shame if the theatre was to go.
“We attract kids from all different schools and backgrounds here. Our production of Doctor Faustus clearly demonstrated the talent we have, and it was great to see the cast grow and make the text their own.”
The theatre company has built a reputation beyond the confines of Ashford, with many of its alumni going on to active careers as professional actors.
Shane Taylor, who attended the group when he was at South Kent College, starred in the Second World War drama Band of Brothers after he received a schol- arship at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.
Stella Critchley, who has funded and administered the group since it opened in 1983, was awarded an MBE in 2007 in recognition of the local and regional significance of her work with the youth theatre.
To prevent its closure the theatre group need a new base where it can stage shows and store a large quantity of equipment, costumes and props — although this doesn’t need to be a conventional theatre.
Ashford Youth Theatre is being forced to leave its current base as part of ABC’s Dover Place redevelopment scheme.
If you know anywhere suitable to house the Ashford Youth Theatre please contact Stella Critchley on 01233 638680
Ashford Youth Theatre productions over the last three decades have included, clockwise from top left, Dr Syn, The Tempest, Dr Faustus, Motortown, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night and No Man’s Land Technical manager Pat Seggery and Harry Triggs load another container; Stella Critchley with the shipping containers holding the electrical equipment Pictures: Paul Amos