Swansea Little Theatre has been continuously performing plays since 1924, but this year sees a landmark in their history. For many years they were a nomadic company, performing in various venues throughout Swansea but in 1979, after much searching they secured a permanent home in Swansea Marina.
The building was the disused (and rather dilapidated) Oscar Chess garage and showroom in what was then a rather run down part of the docks area – no Waterfront Museum, no Tram Museum, no lovely apartments and the river wasn’t too clean either!For nearly five years they had been looking for theatre of their own, but with planning restrictions, no parking available etc etc, so many sites had not proved viable until, the then Council, suggested the Oscar Chess garage. Oh joy! The dream of a home was coming true. But that was only the beginning of a tremendous amount of work to turn a garage (with inspection pits and sumps) into a workable theatre. The members rallied around and everyone worked tirelessly with the help of Manpower Commission, the Probation Service and qualified tradesmen and 40 years later, the building is a prized jewel in the Artists’ Quarter of the Marina.
Of course, there were hold ups and disappointments along the way, not least a fire that gutted part of the building and we had secured a grant to upgrade the whole building with new bar, foyer, box office, but no sooner was it complete than we had the flood of 2008 when every floor was under 3 inches of water – if it was made of wood, it was damaged beyond salvage. Of course, the work hasn’t stopped, every year there is a major improvement to the stage or public area, including the latest LED stage lighting, new stage floor, disabled access, computers – the list goes on.
The building has welcomed many companies over the years – when the Grand Theatre was being refurbished, it became their home for three months. Eddie Izzard, Russell Kane, Jon Pertwee, Welsh National Opera, International Jazz Festival have all been here and there is now have a wonderful band of theatre and dance companies who perform every year here. One of the abiding pleasures is welcoming the theatre-in-education company TNN who have been coming here for 22 years and never cease to amaze the thousands of children who see their shows.
The company will be celebrating with a special party in July and count themselves lucky that with changing tastes, so many theatres struggling to survive they are looking forward to the next 40 years.