A THEATRE group has launched an urgent appeal to replace its 150-year-old home’s roof - amid struggles to access the same levels of funding as other organisations.

Just before the pandemic struck, Wombwell Thespians were told the Playhouse Theatre on Park Street would need up to £40,000 of work to bring its slate roof up to standard.

The roof of the former Methodist Chapel, the society were told, had begun to disintegrate due to weathering over more than a century.

With no income from events due to lockdown and little cash in reserve, the news came at a difficult time.

The group, which took over the building in 1973, has used the period to do as much work as possible - but with theatres returning to relative normality, members are appealing to the public for help.

“Being a relatively small organisation, we don’t attract the same funding as others,” said member of 40 years, Jeff Tiler.

“One problem is our turnover - anything we make gets ploughed back into the theatre.

“It’s our own building which means we’re fortunate in a way, but it also means we’re responsible for the upkeep.

“The roof is just crumbling.

“We keep hoping, especially with the rain we’ve had recently, that there’s no leaking.

“It’s a lovely little building and a real asset to the town, in a particularly deprived area.”

Wombwell Thespians shares the building with the Real Music Centre Theatre Company and Breakaleg Productions, and it has hosted events from across the entertainment spectrum including wrestling and ghost hunting.

The thespians number around 100 - a membership that’s ‘paradoxically’ gone up since last year, despite a calendar cleared of productions.

The group has, Jeff said, benefitted from the support of local firms and has been able to acquire some funding - including the Barnsley-based Captain Allott’s Charity and most recently a £5,000 pledge from the Bernard Sunley Foundation.

But despite its almost 90-year history, applying for financial support is a minefield Wombwell Thespians hasn’t had to negotiate until the pandemic hit.

The group has since seen various hand-outs given to struggling arts and culture groups while it has had little success of its own.

“We’ve done a lot of work to improve and rectify things to get back into operation again,” said 72-year-old Jeff, of Highfield Court, Wombwell.

“Hopefully next month, members and the audience will make the difference.

“We applied through the Theatres Trust, and met all the criteria apart from one - that you have to do at least 30 performances a year.

“I thought they might’ve said given the circumstances, they’d do something.

“The Arts Council process is very complicated - you have to apply for permission to apply again for a building grant above £15,000.

“Various things I’ve needed clarification on and it takes a week to get a reply back.

“We had no joy with the National Lottery.

“One thing that really annoyed us was the grant given to Glastonbury - they don’t need that money.

“There are a lot of smaller groups, not just us, that are doing really good work that could’ve done with even a few hundred pounds.

“I can understand a lot of foundations and trusts are struggling given the situation, and there are more deserving groups than us.

“We’re very pleased the Bernard Sunley Foundation found that £5,000 and we have £5,000 of our own funds - so, we started from nothing and we’re about a third of the way there.”

Anyone who can help with the appeal is asked to contact Jeff on 07508 566767.