Volunteers ‘lifeblood’ of town’s arts centre

Ropetackle Arts Centre is run almost entirely by volunteers
Ropetackle Arts Centre is run almost entirely by volunteers

IT IS not very often that you get the opportunity to experience guilt-free spending, especially when it comes to concerts or shows.

However, at the Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham, people can treat themselves to an evening of opera or music, knowing the money is going to a good cause.

“We are a charity almost entirely run by volunteers. All the bar staff, stewards, and programming team are voluntary,” explains Hermione Harper, who is in charge of admin and finances.

While charity events may conjure up images of village halls or fêtes, Ropetackle breaks the mould by attracting the heavy hitters of the entertainment world.

“We have had an amazing range of artists from all genres appear, including Grayson Perry, Will Self, Jonathan Miller, Jo Brand, Alan Carr, Michael McIntyre, Midge Ure and Seth Lakeman, the list is endless,” reveals Anne Hodgson, trustee and venue manager.

“There was one night which stands out as being particularly magical and was a real turning point for the centre.

“We had just had our big appeal which saved the centre from closure and had booked Simon Townshend and his band to appear.

“The night before their appearance, I was told Roger Daltrey was to make a guest appearance, we sold a further 300 tickets overnight and Ropetackle was on the map.”

Martin Allen, chair of trustees, has been involved with the centre since it opened in 2007.

“I had previously been involved with Adur Festival for about 15 years and was, therefore, closely involved in the local arts scene,” he says. “When we had the opportunity of our own arts centre, we – a number of like minded local people – seized it and set up the charitable trust that runs it.”

Although it is popular, it hasn’t all been plain sailing.

“As a charity, funding is always a concern and in 2011 we reached crisis point and were threatened by closure,” Martin Phillips, who looks after marketing and exhibitions, recalls.

“The community however stood up and showed their unanimous support, saving the centre with their generous donations. Since then, we’ve gone from strength to strength, regularly selling-out events, continuing to put on a quality programme, and strengthening our reputation as leading arts venue.”

Volunteers are the life-blood of the centre, doing almost everything –programming, box office, bar and stewarding.

Mr Phillips said: “Ropetackle is unique in this respect and being run by volunteers has contributed to our ethos of community engagement, and of running the venue professionally, but with a welcoming atmosphere.”

Visit the website ropetacklecentre.co.uk for full listings and to find out about activities at Ropetackle Arts Centre, Little High Street, Shoreham.