ONE OF the oldest amateur theatre groups in the region is preparing to walk 500 miles, and 500 more, as part of a charity effort to raise funds for Help for Heroes.
Sunderland Theatre Company (STCo), which was established in 1893, is challenging people in the North East to join them in a 1,000 Mile Challenge, in which they hope they can get 1,000 people marching a mile, and donating £1 to charity.
The fundraising effort, which ties into the group’s performance of Sunshine on Leith – a musical that features the songs of Scottish duo The Proclaimers, who penned pop classic 500 Miles – is being managed through a Just Giving page.
STCo chairman Graeme Smith, said that the charity challenge was inspired by a deeper understanding of the hardship faced by war veterans returning home – something that is brought to life in Sunshine on Leith.
He said: “During rehearsals for Sunshine on Leith, it struck us that we take for granted our military, and the huge challenges they face to settle back into Civvy Street when they return home from duty.
“The performance really does bring home the harsh realities of life for our soldiers and we really felt that we wanted to give something back, and use this event to raise money for a cause that is increasingly close to our heart. The challenge was inspired by The Proclaimers’ classic, 500 miles, so we decided to ask people to walk 500 miles and 500 more, with the aim of raising £1,000 for charity.”
STCo, which is taking to the stage at Sunderland College’s new Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) centre at its Bede Campus, is a not for profit organisation, based in Millfield. It is thought to be among the oldest amateur theatre companies in the country.
The performance, which will run from March 2 to March 5, is one of two major shows that the group organises each year, as well as a variety of concerts, musicals and one off productions held at venues across the city. The company – which is run entirely by volunteers – is hoping that as well as its charity challenge, it will be able to raise more money thanks to a special collection at the end of the performance. The money collected will be used to fund a Help for Heroes rehabilitation centre – Phoenix House in Catterick.
Tickets for Sunshine On Leith are currently on sale for £10, with all money raised from the performance reinvested to allow the theatre company to hire space from which to hold their rehearsals and groups across the year.
Jane Reed, head of visual and performing arts at Sunderland College, said: “As home to the next generation of performers, it’s quite fitting that this event is taking place at Sunderland College’s cutting-edge Arts Academy. Groups like STCo are often the inspiration that fires people up to pursue studies in performing arts, so it’s great to support them with this production. And more so, because this is raising much needed funds for a life-changing charity.”
STCo aims to involve people from all walks of life in the dramatic arts – whether as performers or audience members – in a bid to spread the benefits of community theatre far and wide. A number of the group’s former members have gone on to enjoy professional theatre careers, while others have become influential in the amateur sector on a local and national level. New members are always welcome.
For more information about Sunderland Theatre Company, or to book tickets for Sunshine on Leith, visit www.sunderlandtheatre.co.uk. Or to take part in the walk a mile challenge, donate to https://www.justgiving.com/stco1000 or by texting “STCz50 £1” to 70070, then tag three friends to do the same. The group has set up a campaign page at https://www.facebook.com/STCo1000 as well as a Twitter account and hashtag to encourage people to share their success online: @STCo1000 #STCo1000. The group has also created a campaign video, which can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tVJjsFUl5g.