CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Theatre’s next act relies on you

Crowdfunder appeal for Pentameters

06 August, 2020 — By Tom Foot

ONE of the oldest fringe theatres in the country is appealing for financial help for the first time in its history.

Pentameters Theatre has relied solely on box office revenue to stage plays and artistic performances in Hampstead for more than 50 years.

But the coronavirus lockdown has meant the theatre is unable to pay its rent and without help is “under threat for the first time in its existence”.

The theatre, listed by the council as an ‘asset of community value, operates above The Horseshoe pub in Heath Street. It also needs funds for repair work to ensure that the building is safe to re-open.

Léonie Scott-Matthews, who was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) honour for ­ser­vices to theatre earlier this year, said: “Pentameters was founded in 1968. I’m self-made. I’ve never been into corporate things, or asking for money from anyone, but now we need to get the money for the rent.”

Asher Breuer-Well and Ollie Edwards, who have been performing and organising shows at the theatre since they were teenagers, helped set up a digital fundraiser for Ms Scott-Matthews. She added: “I’m the old femme fatale female dinosaur, so I’ve been helped by the Pentameters’ younger generation with this.”

Léonie Scott-Matthews

The theatre initially needs £8,000 to plug its Covid-19 losses. The lighting rig needs maintenance and minor building work needs to meet fire regulations.

Supporters can get posters designed by in-house artist and musician Godfrey Old and there are also limited edition T-shirts and evenings of music and poetry planned. Ms Scott-Matthews has published a collection of her life’s poetry called Excelsior as part of the fundraiser.

There have been hundreds of professional shows at Pentamters over the years from Shakespeare, classic revivals and new plays to alternative comedy, music and poetry events.

Ted Hughes, Dannie Abse, Roger McGough, Kingsley Amis, and Harold Pinter all had work performed at Pentameters over the years.

Comedians Rik Mayall, Ben Elton, French and Saunders, and Russell Brand put on shows at the start of their careers.

The theatre pays rent to Camden Town Brewery, which runs the pub downstairs.

Camden Council owns the freehold. Adam Keary, the managing director of the Camden Town Brewery, based in Kentish Town, said: “We have repeatedly requested rent concessions from Camden Council on behalf of both ourselves and Pentameters, however the council haven’t been forthcoming.”

He added: “We are hugely sympathetic to the challenges that Pentameters face and have been supporting them in the repair work and have not made any demands for rent from them whilst they are closed.

“We are a strong supporter of Pentameters and love having them as our neighbours. They are an important part of the creative fabric of Hampstead and we would be devastated if they were to become a victim of the Covid:19 crisis.”

The Pentameters fundraising site can be found online at crowdfunder.co.uk

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