Gravesend's The Woodville in celebratory mood as big birthday approaches
PUBLISHED: 16:43 05 July 2013 | UPDATED: 16:43 05 July 2013
The Woodville in Gravesend, formerly The Woodville Halls, is celebrating its 45th birthday with a bang this year.
The theatre is officially as old as James Bond star Daniel Craig, superstar Will Smith and Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman. But, while those guys were still firmly in nappies, The Woodville was establishing itself as one of Kent’s most impressive venues.
During its teenage years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the likes of Phil Collins and the Electric Light Orchestra could be found bunkered in the theatre’s studio rehearsing their latest tracks.
In an attempt to recapture the glory days, The Woodville’s manager Neil Chandler says the venue is now aiming to book regular recognised faces to draw in big crowds.
Last month, singer Jane McDonald played her part in the birthday celebrations – breaking box office records in the process. The Loose Women star performed her own hits and covers in a show that Neil is hoping will mark a new era for The Woodville.
“It was lovely to see the audience really enjoying themselves and we received a lot of positive feedback,” he said.
“We are trying to get established stars here and it’s beginning to happen. This used to be one of best venues in Kent, but now there are so many scattered around the area.
“Our aim is to rekindle that reputation and fill this wonderful space.”
The theatre was built by Gravesham Council in 1968 using public funds, and so the space is used for a variety of events with the aim of ensuring all parts of the community are catered for.
From professional wrestling to youngsters in their first ballet show, thousands of local residents have appeared at The Woodville.
The local shows go some way to achieving the council’s aim to get a large number of borough residents in at least once a year.
It is the council’s dedication to the arts that has most surprised Neil since he joined the theatre in 2011.
He said: “The highlight of my time here has been the amount of support I’ve had from Gravesham Council.
“Considering the amount of cuts throughout councils all over the country, you have to say Gravesham is leading the way with the arts. We’ve ended up with a venue which is completely up to date.”
Despite a facelift over the past decade, the theatre does still show its age in certain areas. Changes have been made to the seating, the Kent bar and box office, now Neil wants to revitalise the backstage area.
“It hasn’t changed very much back there in 45 years but it’s definitely my next project.”
With the likes of X Factor winner Joe McElderry and magician Paul Daniels set to take to the Gravesend stage this year, it seems The Woodville is beginning to recapture its youth.
Audiences will be taken back 45 years for a series of cinema screenings of classic films from 1968 with ticket prices set at 25p – as they would have been all those years ago.
For more on the venue, visit thewoodville.co.uk.