Shropshire Star

Community's Festival Centre is celebrated 40 years on

A Shropshire arts and leisure facility centre that has played host to a legion of stars has celebrated 40 years of being owned and run by the local community asset.

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The Festival Drayton Centre was bought by the people of Market Drayton in 1984 and has been through some extensive refurbishments over the last four decades to become a multi-use venue that has played host to numerous names in show business such as Jason Donovan, Leslie Garrett and Paul Daniels.

Chair of Trustees, Geoff Vernon, said the building on Frogmore Road had been a former Methodist church until it was bought by the community in Market Drayton.

He said: “Early in 1980s we had a community arts and entertainment organisation that ran a festival each year.

“In 1984, the Methodist church and adjoining cottage came on to the market, we went to have a look at it and thought it was too good an opportunity to miss.

“Because Market Drayton did not have a town hall, we approached the town council and the then district council and we managed to raise enough to buy the building for £29,000.

“It then took us three years to convert it to the space we wanted it to be, which was done by local volunteers, and we finally opened in 1987.”

Four decades on, and more than a £1 million spent on extensions and renovations and the Festival Drayton Centre, has a 200-seat theatre and cinema, many multi-purpose spaces, cafe, bar and a community garden.

The local hub welcomes more than 140,000 people each year for dance classes, martial arts, adult educational courses, and to its state of the art cinema.

On Saturday, to celebrate this much-loved community asset, and to thank the hundreds of volunteers both past and present that keep the centre operating, the Drayton Centre held an open event that saw more than 700 people through the doors.

Among the visitors, the High Sheriff of Shropshire Brian Welti and Deputy Lord Lieutenant Martin Stevens raised a glass to the Festival Centre Volunteers.

There was also live performances and plenty of cake.

“People are very proud of it, and have such feelings for the Festival Centre,” said Geoff. “However, we are of course always looking for more volunteers, so if anybody has any free time they can drop in any day of the week, except Saturdays and speak to any of the volunteers in the centre.”

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