Lamproom in the limelight for 25 years

April marks 25 years since Barnsley’s Lamproom Theatre opened its doors to the public.

Its opening acted as a resurgence of theatre in the town following a period of closures during the 1990s. Barnsley Theatre Trust, led by theatre stalwarts John Kelly and Roger Walton, couldn’t let the curtains close for good on Barnsley’s cultural heart.

They initially looked at buying the former Theatre Royal on Wellington Street which had become a bingo hall, but this fell through and the venue became a nightclub. Not to be defeated, they turned their attention to the old boys’ club on Westgate as a promising home for their new theatre.

Though beautiful on the outside, the grade II listed building, which was built in the 1790s as a methodist chapel, had become derelict once the boys’ club closed after its fifty-year tenure there. Having been used by the homeless and pigeons, it took over 12 months to restore.

Opening night was 25th April 1999, with Barnsley-born opera singer John Hudson taking to the stage. He captivated an audience in the 186-seater auditorium, all sitting on seats rescued from the old Civic Theatre. He was the first act back in 1999, so it was only right that they brought John Hudson back in January to kick their 25th year off in style.

Over the years, the town centre venue has become lovingly known as ‘The People’s Theatre’ entertaining audiences with a unique blend of roof-raising comedies, live music and family fun. For much of its 25-year history, the Lamproom has been the town’s only central theatre, providing Barnsley people with somewhere to watch a play, gig or show.

Their annual programme continues to mix relatability with escapism, capturing hearts and creating core memories in both young and old. They’ve welcomed a broad spectrum of stars and worked with many excellent amateur and professional theatre companies from across the country. Most turns who perform at the Lamproom say that it’s like turning up for a gig at a friend’s house as the team are always so welcoming.

They’ve never received a penny of funding in all those years from organisations like Arts Council or the National Lottery, and it’s thanks to the efforts of the Friends of Lamproom Theatre volunteer group that the theatre has kept shining bright. In recent years, the team have continued to make improvements to its facilities, renovating the bar area, having a new stage, and most recently a new-look box office.

The management team have all worked in the theatre industry for many years, with people like Phil Shepherd as technical manager, Simon Curley as front of house manager, and Jack Land Noble as general manager. As actors, producers and directors, the team are also heavily involved in the Lamproom Theatre Company that was also formed in 1999 and exclusively performs at the theatre.

To mark the milestone anniversary, the team have crammed in a stellar line-up of shows for the duration of 2024. As we head into the spring/summer season, there is something for all the family.

From Broadway to Barnsley, sit back and enjoy some big stage productions of the likes of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and Phantom of the Opera.

There are music tributes galore booked in, with everything from Queen to Bob Dylan. Later in the summer, there are shows dedicated to Celine Dion, Elvis, George Harrison, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, and Tom Jones.

If comedy is more your cup of tea, then get ready for some side-splitting shows. By public demand, many popular past productions have been resurrected for 2024 including Trashed starring Billy Pearce.

Two other shows getting a second running are Sparkies and From Grimethorpe with Love. It’s been twenty years since John Kelly staged his award-winning Sparkies on the Lamproom stage, based on his own experience as a 15-year-old lad heading down the pits in 1966. Jack Land Noble has also revived his hilarious 50 shades of coal saga after ten years with a whole new cast.

They have also brought back out their collection of commemorative plates hanging in the bar area for the 25th anniversary. These were hand-painted by John Kelly’s mother-in-law, Doreen, for each show performed by the Lamproom Theatre Company, starting with Arthur Miller’s The Crucible back in 1999.