A Short History of the Hurstpierpoint Players
The Hurstpierpoint Players, and the Hurstpierpoint community, are very fortunate in having their own theatre. Very few amateur societies can lay claim to premises of their own, having to rely on village halls and makeshift stages, not many of which can boast the facilities of a proper theatre.
When the Hurstpierpoint Players was formed in 1936, at another of Hurst's meeting places - The New Inn - they had to use whatever premises were available for rehearsals and performances. Their first production was BIRD IN HAND in 1937, and the venue was the Drill Hall.
After 1937, most performances took place in the Parish Room. In 1961 the Players mounted the first of their special summer productions, mainly of Shakespeare, in marquees erected in gardens around Hurstpierpoint.
In 1976 The Players bought their own premises, then a general store called Graveleys. The building dates from the 1820's and was originally a non-conformist chapel, but during its lifetime was also a school, and, between the wars, Robins Wine Store. A great deal of work was put into the project by members and friends which resulted in the Players being able to put on their first play in their new theatre - The Players Theatre - in January, 1977.
Our distinctive logo was specially designed for the Hurstpierpoint Players by local artist and sculptor John Skelton. Skelton was a nephew and apprentice of sculptor, typographer and artist, Eric Gill.
The Theatre Today
Hurstpierpoint Players is a registered charity, and as with all charities, it relies heavily on fund-raising activities and the donations of benefactors to maintain its building and produce high quality shows. Mounting a production, particularly one requiring a complicated set, lighting and costumes - not to mention fees for performing rights - is becoming increasingly expensive, and the sale of tickets cannot always be enough to cover production costs as well as proper maintenance of the theatre.
Almost all the work on the building, excepting major structural work, is done by members of the Hurstpierpoint Players, who seem to be able to turn their hand to anything from carpet laying, plumbing, electrics, and decorating, to design and construction of sets and making costumes and props. In the 'Great Storm' of October 1987 the Players Theatre lost half its roof and quick-thinking members managed to buy up the last local stocks of tarpaulin to keep out the weather. This enabled the curtain to go on up on time for the October production - three days later!
Other Users of the Players Theatre
The theatre premises are also used on Saturday mornings by the Centre Stage youth acting group - an organisation dedicated to teaching children, from age 8 upward, the basics needed to make a successful career or hobby out of the theatre. Currently they have a membership of some 80 children and a waiting list to join, and several ex-members making their way in the profession today.
In partnership with The Hurst Village Cinema, The Players now host live broadcasts from The National Theatre and the Kenneth Brannagh Theatre, as part of the National Theatre Live initiative. The Village Cinema also show a broad range of films from around the world - see their website for details of upcoming viewings. The use of the theatre by other groups, touring companies and artists, has enabled the local community to experience a wider range of live performances than one group is able to produce on its own during a year. Click here for information on hiring the theatre for your event.