The Wokingham Paper

Help save Henley’s theatre, The Kenton

Kenton Theatre in Henley needs some support to keep going through the enforced closure Picture: Linda Wallace

ACTORS, poets and musicians are coming together with one plea: help save Henley’s Theatre.

The Kenton, which is the country’s fourth-oldest working theatre, needs to raise £35,000 to match a grant from the Arts Council England emergency fund given in May.

The 240-seat theatre is hugely popular with audiences and performers alike, with many big names pledging support including Bake Off’s Mary Berry, the poet Pam Ayres and Upstairs Downstairs legend Simon Williams.

To help hit the fundraising target, tomorrow evening (Friday, October 9) from 7pm, West End star Mike Sterling will perform a live concert that people can tune in to online.

Mike played the title role in The Phantom of the Opera, as well as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables.

His YouTube show will include songs from West End shows as well as anecdotes about his time on the stage.

He said: “It’s vital that all the public get behind this campaign. There are not many venues like this and its preservation is vital.

“It’s only when these venues disappear that people truly realise what they have lost in their midst. Personally, I truly ‘feel’ the Kenton and what it stands for.

“If everyone was to get behind our cause and support it, the long-term financial impact for them is minimal, but for The Kenton, it’s a case of it flourishing.”

Julie Huntington, chair of the trustees at The Kenton Theatre, said: “With not being able to do our job – that is, entertain and delight our audiences for the last six months – this period has had a huge financial impact on our beloved Kenton.

“This ‘Grand Old Lady’ of theatre is 215 years old, and has survived many battles.

“Built in the time of the Napoleonic Wars, she has come through many testing times, including bankruptcy, abandonment and two world wars.

“This latest challenge however – this unseen enemy, Covid-19, is probably one of the most difficult to overcome, but overcome we will.”

And Mary Berry took time out from judging Bake Off to say: “The Kenton Theatre is one of the treasures of Henley. Please support Kenton For Keeps – a historic icon of Henley and it needs to be here forever.”

While Simon Williams said: “I love the theatre, I love theatre in general, I love the buildings, the actors, the idea of audiences gathering to watch a story being told – in particular I love The Kenton Theatre.

“Please help support the Kenton during these grim times.”

While Pam Ayres said: “I’ve been appearing at the Kenton Theatre now for many years and have always loved it.

“I’ve been there for literary festivals and to do my own show on many occasions and I’ve always come away thinking what a valuable place it is.

“I’m appealing to you today to donate whatever you can to help keep The Kenton open. Please help us ensure that The Kenton Theatre is here for the future generations in Henley and for everyone who is interested in theatre to come along and enjoy.”

HOW TO DONATE: Text KEEPKENTON and the amount you wish to donate to 70085, for example text KEEPKENTON 10 to 70085 to donate £10. Texts cost the amount of your donation plus one standard rate message.

Visit kentontheatre.co.uk/kentonforkeeps to donate online.

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