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A Magazine for Sheffield

Voluntary Theatre is not Amateur Theatre

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'Amateur' is a word that I've never liked next to 'theatre'. It suggests less: less quality, less effort, less appeal. 'Voluntary' theatre is more accurate, a word that invokes passion, shouts pride and lets the audience know they are supporting their local community.

The now Grade II-listed Lantern Theatre, originally known as the Chalet Theatre, was built in 1893 by cutlery manufacturer William Webster as a gift to his daughter. With an intimate 84 crimson red seats and a tall white marble proscenium arch, the theatre tips its hat to a forgotten age of Victorian performance in a modern Nether Edge. Today it is Sheffield's oldest surviving theatre.

The Lantern was abandoned after the Great War and stood empty until 1957, when a local woman, Dilys Guite, organised an effort to restore the venue to its former glory. For the past 60 years, the honorary group The Dilys Guite Players have maintained, produced and performed there. As well as local voluntary productions, the venue also hosts a variety of professional musical, comedy and stage touring companies. More recently the space has also been available as a wedding venue.

The Lantern Theatre is unique because it feels like home. You walk in and feel an immediate sense of nostalgia. You are transported back to a time of dramaturgical magic that is near-impossible to capture in larger venues. It's a theatre that is truly at the heart of its community, offering opportunities for budding writers, producers, directors, set designers, technicians or anyone who just wants to get involved and help out.

This is not an amateur theatre. This is not less of a theatre. It's exactly how theatre should be - for everyone.

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