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Enterprising Moreton Hall Girls Raise The Curtain on a New Community Theatre

Moreton Hall School continues to combine enterprise with community spirit
Moreton Hall in Shropshire, played host to 550 members of the local business community on Friday 17th March. Guests and the students, filled the school’s sports hall to listen to William Hague, the Rt Hon the Lord Hague of Richmond, share his thoughts on Britain and its place in the world post Brexit. Alongside this, the Managing Directors of Moreton Enterprises and the Head Girl, took to the stage to launch the most recent in a long line of business initiatives implemented by the girls of Moreton Hall. Moreton Enterprises began in the mid-1980’s when a pioneering group of school girls led a successful campaign to open Gobowen railway station, for the benefit of the local community. Over thirty years later, the school’s latest campaign is to create a community theatre – based at Moreton Hall, again benefiting the local area; schools, arts groups and residents.

The first act
This new theatrical venture began for Moreton Hall when a generous benefactors, Bill and Julie Holroyd, saw the positive results of drama, through their own daughter’s education. Mr Holroyd is an active philanthropist who has been instrumental in setting up and developing the Onside Youth Zones; a partnership between the public and private sector. At these ‘zones’ young people from all backgrounds can engage in many activities; from sport to creative arts to support with their careers.

Mr Holroyd explained; “I have seen the results of community engagement to deliver projects that help a local area at many levels. I feel that the girls of Moreton Hall can successfully lead a campaign that will add to their experience – but most importantly, result in a place for the community to come together and learn about, participate in and enjoy all that the arts have to offer. I look forward to being in the audience when the doors open.”

Treading the boards
The next step was to research and understand the true desire and requirement for a theatre. The positive response was overwhelming, from both schools and local groups; Debra Watson, Attfield Theatre Company expressed her support; “I can see both the need and the benefit of having a purpose built theatre space in the vicinity of Oswestry. The theatre would be an excellent resource for the local community (schools, musical groups etc) to use and also a benefit to the wider community in having a viable venue for hosting shows by travelling theatre groups, comedians, musicians etc. It would have immeasurable value.” This was further supported in three simple but enthusiastic words, by Mrs Geke Cook at Trefonen Primary School; “What a treasure! ” In total – 250 businesses, schools, community groups and arts organisations have been surveyed for their feedback and a pedestrian survey was conducted in Oswestry. All of this puts a very strong case for the 290 seater theatre that has been conceptualised by Tim Ronalds, the architects behind the Hackney Empire.

Preparing for opening night
Now the real work begins as the enterprising wheels start to turn to build the Holroyd Theatre at Moreton Hall. Money to be raised, a concept to be marketed and then a business to manage. The running of the box office, promoting events, catering, designing and producing merchandise – will join the collection of initiatives run by the girls, currently with a turnover of circa £50,000.00: Moreton Enterprises. The students have real operational and management experience of working in business whilst at school. A theatre provides them with an opportunity to interact with the general public; to hone their communication and business skills. This has already begun, with Face2Face Theatre school, which launched in September 2016. It provides an opportunity for students at Moreton Hall and children across the region to engage in dance, drama and the arts. The Moreton Enterprises team is managing the merchandise and other areas where there is sales and marketing potential; they are not ones to miss a business opportunity! This is just the start of this theatrical enterprise…

And the curtains go up!
The curtains can only go up on this fantastic project due to the fabulous support of the Patrons, Bill and Julie Holroyd and other key supporters such as the Old Moretonian, Sheila Reid; currently best known as Granny from Benidorm! Other generous donations have helped an initial milestone to be reached of £850,000.00 in pledged donations. Jonathan Forster, Principal at Moreton Hall explains; “It is now up to the enterprising and community spirit in and around Moreton Hall in Shropshire, to see this plan come to fruition. The aim is for the current students to follow in the footsteps of the girls who in the 1980s and 90s were successful in their efforts to open Gobowen railway station. We greatly appreciate that the scene has now been set – to begin our latest community campaign, with the Lord Hague of Richmond, speaking here at Moreton Hall. We hope that we can invite him back to see the curtain go up on our first production in 2019.”
Lord Hague applauded the impressive entrepreneurial spirit of Moreton Hall and the students who run the enterprise, saying “that this initiative will benefit not just Moreton Hall but the local community. The ingenuity and enterprising spirit of the students cannot fail to impress and I commend their hard work and dedication to such a worthwhile project. I look forward to seeing their plans become reality.”

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