Plaque unveiled to mark long service

Betty Dawes, beneath the plaque, with her husband, Ralph, left, and association secretary Dave Comber
Betty Dawes, beneath the plaque, with her husband, Ralph, left, and association secretary Dave Comber

MORE than 60 years’ dedicated service to Southwick Community Centre was marked with the unveiling of a plaque.

Betty Dawes, one of the longest-serving volunteers at the centre, was at the Barn Theatre foyer, in part of the complex, on Thursday for the ceremony.

Southwick Community Association secretary Dave Comber unveiled the plaque on behalf of the board of trustees, in appreciation of Mrs Dawes’ long service to the centre, in Southwick Street, Southwick, and support of the work there.

Watched by trustees, friends and representatives from the theatre groups who use the Barn, he talked of Mrs Dawes’ work there since ‘the very beginning’.

She was one of the volunteers who physically helped clear the disused and run-down old barn, around 1950, so it could be converted to a community hall and theatre.

Mr Comber said: “Ralph, her husband, has been in the background all the time.

“They were founder members of Young Wick Players back in the 1940s and have been involved ever since. Betty has been a hands-on volunteer at the centre since the very beginning.”

He said it was fitting the plaque should be installed in the Barn Theatre foyer, as Mrs Dawes and her family had generously supported the recent refurbishment of both the foyer and box office.

Over the years, Mrs Dawes has been actively involved in the theatre as director and performer. She is president of both Wick Theatre Company and Southwick Opera, as well as being president of the community centre.

She has also been active in the running of the community association, serving on many of the management committees over the years, and has been a member of the board of trustees since that structure was set up 15 years ago.

Mrs Dawes recalled the early days, when, as a teenager, she and a group of friends formed the Unity Players, later to become Young Wick.

She said her father had sometimes taken her to Brighton Hippodrome and that was where her love of theatre began.

“I thought it was marvellous,” she said.

She recalled the early days at the Barn Theatre, when wooden platforms were used to raise the back rows of the audience, and many happy times there over the years.