"We've always felt that they didn't really want us there; that we were a pain in their proverbials..."
While the Salford City Mayor and his councillors tell anyone who will listen how important culture is to the city, Worsley Intimate Theatre Society, or W.I.T.S, which has been putting on plays for 45 years at the Council-owned Worsley Court House, has been forced to quit due to sustained rent hikes.
The amateur theatre company was putting on three shows a year, with a four night run, at the black and white mock-Tudor Grade 2 listed Court House. But hire costs for staging the three plays at the hall have mushroomed from a nominal fee of £780 in 2002 to £5,350 last year. Since 2010, step increases in rent have seen hire costs balloon by £1,180. The Council was charging the group £300 just to set up the day before live performances.
"We didn't want to move, a lot of people liked the venue but it's just totally unsustainable" says W.I.T.S committee member and director Simon Griffiths "The hire costs were going up continually..."
Simon points out that after the Council's steep charges, royalties, sets, costumes and other production costs it was hard for the group to break even, never mind pull a profit to finance the next production...
"We paid top dollar" he explains "It is now run like a business and they don't care about the people. We used to put the plays on Saturday nights but they could make more on a wedding so we had to stop. We've always felt that they didn't really want us there; that we were a pain in their proverbials.
"They are pricing people out who use it as a community building and those people have to find somewhere else" he says "But in the meantime they've been knocking down most of the other community buildings so there is nowhere else in the Walkden and Worsley area to go. There are schools but you have to hire them from the Council so you have the same pitfalls as the Court House.
"It just seems to me that they're not bothered" he adds "They said `Go and do it at The Lowry' but you try and do it locally for residents; why should they travel to The Lowry? There should be provision here. And there was provision for it in a Salford community building, but they don't want it."
Ironically, W.I.T.S has now moved its productions out of Salford Council's `community' building and into the private and equally mock-Tudor setting of Bridgewater School on Worsley Road.
"Although it is the end of an era, this is our new home located just half a mile from our former home and their studio is purpose built for theatre production delivery" states W.I.T.S "The studio is very different to the Court House and offers us great new challenges and the opportunity to extend our repertoire. We are really excited to be delivering in this new setting and looking forward to performing there."
W.I.T.S' first production in the apt setting of Bridgewater School is John Godber's comedy play within a play, Teechers, in which three actors play twenty different parts.
Teechers sees three school leavers, Salty, Hobby and Gail, perform to their teachers an account of their time in secondary school; specifically their time with the new drama teacher who ignites their passion for the stage with his idealism and belief that all children should be treated equally. A lesson in there somewhere for Salford Council, no doubt...
Worsley Intimate Theatre presents
Teechers by John Godber
Tuesday 24th– Friday 27th November
Drywood Hall, Worsley Road M28 2WQ
Tickets: £8 on Tues, £8.50 Wed and Thurs ,£9 Fri
To book phone 0161 790 2842
For more details see the Facebook page Worsley Intimate Theatre – click here
• After Teechers, the next two W.I.T.S productions are John Godber's Salt of the Earth: February 23rd-26th 2016, and Up 'n' Under: April 26th-29th 2016
Main photo shows rehearsals for Teechers