‘Listening’ Witham unveils line-up
By Stuart Laundy - Senior Reporter
“WE have listened to what people want.”
That was the message from trustees and staff at The Witham as they unveiled the centre's spring programme of events from January to April.
As part of the campaign to save the complex from closure, trustees promised to do things differently, ensuring the programme would offer something for everyone as well as continuing to build on its reputation for the likes of folk music and classical performances.
This has seen the inclusion of David Bowie tribute act Jean Genie in March, which includes a live band along with The Jerseys Oh, What a Nite in April, which celebrates the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
Live music kicks off in January with a visit from Martyn Joseph, dubbed The Welsh Springsteen, while other highlights include The Lindisfarne Story, as told by founder member Ray Laidlaw and frontman Billy Mitchell.
Classical music includes the return of pianist Viv McLean in March and a visit from the Aquarius String Quartet for an afternoon performance in April.
Theatre ranges from The Castle Players' version of JB Priestley's When We Are Married on January 12 to the Dad's Army Radio Show, a two hander in which the actors play 25 characters.
Film Thursdays return – with a twist after movie fans were asked to suggest screenings.
So alongside the likes of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and the remake of A Star is Born, the classic Breakfast at Tiffany's will be shown.
Accessible matinee screenings of classics will be screened, including the Wizard of Oz, Casablanca and West Side Story and there will even be a couple of singalongs – the Sound of Music and Mamma Mia 2.
Comedy kicks off with Justin Moorhouse on January 26 – and the Mancunian funnyman came across to take part in the launch.
Others in the comedy line-up range from Seann Walsh (of Strictly Come Dancing notoriety) and legends Cannon and Ball.
Various fundraisers, spoken word performances, exhibitions and family events complete the line-up.
Introducing the programme, Bob Garton, in his final act before standing down as chairman of trustees, said much water had flowed under the County Bridge since The Witham's difficulties were made public earlier in the year.
“We are here and viable – it's been one hell of a ride,” he said.
“One of the things we did take on board was to agree that we would try to run this place differently and there have been a lot of good things happened to put The Witham in the best possible place it can be.
“We wanted to listen to people and for this to be a place everyone can relate to,” he added.
“The last thing I want to hear is people say The Witham is not for the likes of us.”
Mr Garton said that while the centre was willing to trial different types of performers, shows and events, the bottom line was they had to show a profit if they were to repeated.
Despite stepping down, he said he would remain involved at The Witham in a community role, adding that despite the problems faced by the centre during his three years at the helm, it had given him a lot of enjoyment.
He and wife Moira were presented with flowers and whisky as a thank-you from The Witham.