Bakewell Town Hall marking anniversary

Bakewell Town Hall is close to celebrating its first anniversary as a community arts centre, and the team behind the project have every right to be bursting with pride in what they have achieved.

Before the centre manager Helen Swift began revamping the venue they just staged the annual pantomime, but very little else besides.

Now it can boast a line-up for the summer which includes a chamber music series, comedian Simon Munnery and a performance of Habeas Corpus by the High Tor Players.

Helen is an archaeologist specialising in buildings like churches, and she previously worked for a heritage charity conserving and developing new uses for listed buildings.

Two years ago she arrived in Bakewell to run the town hall which was just about ticking over at the time.

“After a while, the building got under my skin and I started thinking about what we could do to get the town hall back on its feet.

“I started from a heritage perspective: the best use for a building, one that has the least impact on the historic fabric is the one that it was designed for,” she explained.

“We had a beautiful little theatre, very under-used. It seemed clear that we should get this up and running again, as it was an original feature. The masons built this place with the intention that it should provide entertainment for the town.

“Folks have to travel a fair distance to see shows, so our vision became clear: to develop a thriving community arts centre, and bring a little bit more of a market town spirit back to the town hall.”

Helen said the small dedicated team of volunteers working alongside her had received fantastic support from the town and a growing audience from far and wide.

They have also received support from Foundation Derbyshire, the town council and the British Film Institute.

“We’ve cleared up, decorated, rebuilt and revamped but there’s lots more to do,” she said with enthusiasm.

“We’re a very small team, so we’ve had to turn ourselves to everything – web site builder, graphic designer, bar tender, projectionist, gallery manager, cleaner, interior designer, talent booker, promoter, you name it, we do it.”

The inaugural chamber music series begins on March 31 with musicians from the Hallé Orchestra performing Mozart: Oboe Quartet K370; Moeran: Fantasy Quartet for Oboe and Strings and Dohnányi: Serenade for String Trio
Opus 10.

The musicians are Hugh McKenna oboe; Paulette Bayley violin; Katrina Baker viola and Dale Culliford cello.

The second in the series will be on April 28 when Caroline Pether, violin, Rosemary Attree violin, Raymond Lester viola; Nick Trygstad cello and Dale Cuylliford cello will play music by Wolf, Haydn and Schubert.

Comedian Simon Munnery who has appeared on the Culture Show and BBC Radio 4’s News Quiz will be performing his stand-up routine on April 8.

For further information about  events go to