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Village Music & Drama

Artrix: Bromsgrove’s best-kept secret?

Posted on February 25 2006 at 12:48:38 0 comments

Artrix

Sally Oldaker discovers that there’s plenty going on at the town’s flagship arts centre.

If you were not aware that Bromsgrove has a new arts centre showcasing theatre, cinema and a wide variety of interactive events, you’re probably not alone.

When it first opened, Artrix seemed to have difficulties in advertising itself to the general public, and with a lack of information – particularly in the way of signposting – much of the target audience remained in the dark as to the facility’s whereabouts, let alone its attractions.

An Open Day in September 2005 went some way towards remedying this, and Artrix now claim that the majority of people, at least in Bromsgrove, do know that Artrix exists and how to find it.

“This second opening was a great success – we had Darth Vader, stormtroopers, a clown for the children, and a pig roast!” says the centre’s administrator, Vicky Cieciora.

“A full programme then began in September, and the live shows with Pam Ayres and Jeremy Hardy were both sell-outs.”

Local groups such as Bromsgrove Operatic Society and All & Sundry have also performed at Artrix, and pupils from Bromsgrove School staged a sell-out production of Les Miserables in November, attracting many members of the public with no particular links to the school.

“The aim is to provide something for everyone,” Vicky explains. “We want to bring to Bromsgrove shows and films that people might not otherwise get the chance to see, such as the programme of foreign films – even if Artrix makes a loss on certain events, it’s important to offer a range of experiences.”

As you might be able to tell from its ethos, Artrix is not just a commercial organisation, but a registered charity with educational and community values.

Workshops for children and a forthcoming educational outreach programme encourage youngsters to express themselves through drama and language, and an especially interesting feature is the Language in Action classes, where children aged four to 11 learn French, Spanish and German through role play and music.

Workshops for adults are also proving popular, for example the one-off Tango and Flamenco workshops and Guitar for Beginners. Performing arts students from the next-door NEW College also use Artrix on weekdays – the facility is a joint venture between the college and the council, although fully independent.

The building features not only a theatre but also a separate studio with portable low-level staging for small productions, plus several meeting rooms and a dedicated theatrical hair and makeup room equipped by NEW College.

The wide corridors provide an ideal space for art exhibitions; currently on display are local scenes from the Tennyson Collection, and the venue also lends itself to larger installations.

The theatre has a large video wall, and there are plans for this to be linked to another screen in the spacious foyer, so that live music performances can be beamed through to a second audience.

“There are safety restrictions on how many people can sit in the theatre, so the video link would allow more people to see a performance,” says Vicky.

It may come as a surprise to learn that the theatre – originally designed as a recital hall – boasts acoustics designed by the same person who created Symphony Hall’s state-of-the-art system.

“People coming here for the first time are pleasantly surprised that Bromsgrove has a facility of this standard,” Vicky adds.

The theatre seats an audience of 301 in tiered and balcony seating, and can be adapted for different events: during my visit, the first three rows of seats had been removed to make way for an extended orchestra pit.

“The seats can also be moved if a flat floor is required for a live band, or for an ‘in the round’ performance,” Vicky points out. “It’s a very versatile space, but we really need a hydraulic system to move the seats – it’s a hell of a job to do it manually!”

The equipment would cost an estimated £60,000, money that Artrix simply doesn’t have at present. Funded through operating grants from Bromsgrove District Council and Worcestershire County Council, the centre is looking for extra sponsorship, and the directors have applied to the national Arts Council.

Artrix is largely staffed by volunteers to save costs: “There is a small core of staff, but the volunteers play a big part – we couldn’t afford to run the centre without them,” Vicky says.

The last couple of months have included a programme of shows likely to attract large audiences, such as the immensely popular Sing-a-long-a-Sound of Music and recent hit films like Pride & Prejudice and Chronicles of Narnia.

Workshops ranging from breakdance and tap to samba and stage fighting show the diversity of events on offer.

Upcoming performances include alternative comedy from Mark Steel on March 10, plus three tribute bands – Counterfeit Stones on April 7, U2UK on April 20, and Whole Lotta Led on May 20.

Ralph McTell is in concert on April 15, while workshops for jazz dance, street dance and adult drama continue into March and April – see the website for full details.

Artrix Centre
School Drive, Bromsgrove
01527 577330
http://www.artrix.co.uk

Artrix can be reached by car via the Brewsters roundabout on the A38 Bromsgrove Eastern bypass, with ample parking available adjacent to NEW College. The venue can be reached on foot from the town centre via School Drive.


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