The Mowlem – despite Covid, the show must go on!

As the arts industry faces a crippling crisis due to coronavirus, Swanage’s independent theatre and cinema, The Mowlem has revealed details of its festive programme scheduled for the run up to Christmas.

While other larger theatres and cinemas across the country faced with COVID-19 restrictions are still struggling to reopen, The Mowlem successfully opened its doors to a paying audience this October 2020.

Show posters at The Mowlem
Exterior of The Mowlem

Unmissable landmark in the town

The Mowlem is an unmissable landmark in the town – love or hate its1960’s architecture but you can’t pass by without noticing the big boxy structure that juts out onto Swanage Beach. However it’s what goes on inside that is really appreciated by residents and visitors.

Sadly, there’s no panto this year but the operations manager, Thomas Curtis has negotiated to show a series of films that he hopes will keep a wide ranging audience entertained plus the first live show is scheduled with the singer and comedian Richard Digence for Friday 13th November 2020.

November 2020 film screenings – now available to book

  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Michael Ball & Alfie Boe: Back Together
  • 42nd Street
  • Kinky Boots
  • Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor

December 2020 film screenings – available to book soon

  • Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella
  • King and I
  • Michael Ball & Alfie Boe: Back Together
  • A Christmas Carol – a new independent film
  • Plus a live festive performance by singer, Karen Grant.
Show posters at The Mowlem
Show posters at The Mowlem
Show posters at The Mowlem

“We’ve now got a full programme up to the end of the year”

Thomas Curtis said:

“Back in August we looked at the viability of reopening and assessed what sort of programme we could put together. Working with the trustees we worked out what we wanted to achieve as there were limited films available and we wanted to ensure that we could put on movies that people would feel were worth coming out for.

“We also had to ensure that we could be Covid safe and that we could do the marketing to let everyone know what’s on.

“We’re very happy that all the hard work has paid off and we’ve now got a full programme up to the end of the year. Coronavirus is here and we’ve just got to work with it.

“My heart goes into this and it’s a real responsibility to get it right. It’s been unbelievably hard work. My mother is coming to all the performances and I wouldn’t let her, if I wasn’t confident that it was safe to do so!”

The auditorium at The Mowlem
The auditorium at The Mowlem
The auditorium at The Mowlem

The auditorium has been refurbished and adapted to be a Covid-secure venue. The front row of the stalls has been removed and every other row is not in use to ensure social distancing

Working hard behind the scenes

While The Mowlem was closed due to coronavirus, the new team of trustees have been working hard behind the scenes to complete an internal refurbishment of the building, create a new business plan and reduce costs to achieve better future financial stability.

This has all been done without access to any Arts Council or government grant so far.

To help arts organisations survive the COVID-19 crisis, the Arts Council developed a £160m emergency response package but this was only for organisations with a track record in publicly funded culture, meaning that The Mowlem didn’t qualify because it hadn’t been awarded funds in the past.

A spokesperson for the Arts Council said:

“It’s brilliant to hear The Mowlem theatre is beginning to reopen its doors again. The Mowlem can apply to Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants, our open application funding programme, for a specific project.

“We reopened the fund with a budget of £77.9 million available until April 2021 with a focus on the needs of smaller independent organisations and practitioners.

“Earlier this year we published a new ten year strategic vision that will guide us over the coming years. The strategic vision in ‘Let’s Create’ states that by 2030 we want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish and where everyone of us has access to a remarkable range of high quality cultural experiences.”

The projector

The film projector is an essential bit of kit that requires regular servicing. It is a Christie solaire plus, running the Dolby IMS3000 with a Dolby sound processor

The stairs at The Mowlem
The ladies toilets at the Mowlem

Even the stairs and the ladies’ loos have been refurbished!

Create a future strategic plan

Before the coronavirus pandemic struck, new trustees Paul Angel, Nick Field and James Kessler were appointed to help create a future strategic plan for the theatre.

Now the expertise of the team has been further boosted by bringing in the chair of the Purbeck Film Festival, Andrea Etherington as a trustee.

Matthew Haysom is the chair of The Mowlem trustees. He said:

“We’re now looking towards the future and we want to have more discussions with our stakeholders like the drama society and the wider community to get their views on what they would like The Mowlem to provide. Obviously with Covid it’s difficult to have meetings but we are keen to engage and find out what people want.

“We’re determined to move forward and have big plans for the future – we’re looking at how we should best use the space we have and the best way to develop it to its full potential. Also we really need a new roof!

“What this crisis has shown is that being a smaller, independent theatre we are more able to adapt to change and can continue to offer culture and entertainment when the bigger arts organisations and film chains fail to provide.”

Further information and to book tickets

  • Go online to The Mowlem website
  • Phone 0333 666 3366 – Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm
  • Visit The Mowlem Box Office – Mondays 10.30 am to 1.30 pm and Fridays 10.30 am to 1.30 pm
An old sign at The Mowlem

An original sign discovered in the dressing room during refurbishment

An old sign at The Mowlem

An old sign that replaced the original ones

New signs at The Mowlem

The new signs are clear and accessible to read

Share this story

Contact us

Do you have anything to add to this story?

We like to keep everything up-to-date, so if you know more, please help us by getting in touch.

Community comments