An independent theatre company in Leamington has announced a full programme of live productions for 2022 in what is its centenary year.
The Loft Theatre Company, based these days in Victoria Colonnade, was formed in 1922 and has continued putting on productions through a world war, two fires, eight recessions and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Having re-opened to audiences with a 'Covid safe and socially distanced' production of Alan Bennett's version of The Wind in the Willows in July last year for the first time after it had to close due to the first lockdown in March 2020 - the theatre company will stage ten plays at full capacity and put on other events to mark the 100th year of its existence over the next 12 months.
Sue Moore, the Loft Theatre Company's artistic director, said: "It's really quite something for an independent live theatre company to be celebrating its centenary year.
"We own our own custom-designed theatre building and receive no external funding to for us to have survived all of this time on our own wits and enterprise is outstanding.
"The only thing that has stopped us in our tracks over the years and caused us to close was the [Covid-19] pandemic."
During lockdown The Loft put on seven audio productions with a full cast which one reviewer described as 'being of Radio 3 standard'.
And, the theatre also underwent a programme allowing for all of its props, costumes and furniture to stay on the site and to make it safer for audiences to return to after lockdown restrictions were lifted.
Sue said: "People asked us what we were doing during lockdown but we have been really busy.
"We re-imagined the theatre with the building work and then we had the audio productions to put on, which we held auditions for, and re-rehearse The Wind in the Willows while having to recast some of our productions for various reasons.
"Financially we took a hit and we have an expensive building to look after - but Government grants were a lifeline for us and we have taken great strides to make people feel safe at the theatre - we've been accredited by the Society of London Theatre for having a Covid-safe venue.
"We hope lots of people will want to come to celebrate with us."
The Loft Theatre Company was formed when Mr and Mrs W A Constable held a meeting for more than 18 people at their home in Woodcote Road, Warwick.
The results was the founding of The Warwick and Leamington Dramatic Study Club for the study of drama and the reading and performing of plays.
At that time the club did not have its own premises and performances were at various locations including Leamington College, Leamington Town Hall and Jephson Gardens Pavilion.
It wasn’t until 1932 that the club found its own premises, an old barn in Bedford Street.
The building was accessed via a rickety staircase and resembled a loft – hence the club became known affectionately as The Loft.
Having been evicted in 1941 and once again being without a premises for several years, The Loft eventually found its current site at the former Colonnade Theatre.
This building had a fascinating history - it was built in 1870 as the Victorian Grand Pavilion, was used as a riding school, then for live circus performances, a picture house in the silent movie days, a retail store and even an ice skating rink.
The Second World War halted plans for a while but the premises was eventually acquired in 1945.
In 1958 a fire destroyed the theatre's stage and dressing rooms but performances continued at alternative venues in the town before the venue was re-opened 14 months later.
Disaster struck again in 1964 when fire burned down the building.
The Loft did have much local support and found temporary facilities in Urquhart Hall to continue performances.
Meanwhile the task of redesigning and rebuilding the theatre was undertaken.
The Loft as it is today was rebuilt and opened in 1968.
Much renovation and refurbishment is now carried out on a continual basis to ensure that the building meets the current fire regulations and the requirements of Health & Safety legislation.
Now The Loft has a 200-seat air-conditioned theatre, a normal annual turnover in six figures and a national reputation for producing high quality theatre.
For more information about the Loft's programme for its centenary year visit https://lofttheatrecompany.com/