Swanage families are being encouraged to take their place at The Mowlem by sponsoring a seat in the auditorium and helping to start a huge fundraising drive to secure the future of the entertainment centre.
As part of the 160th anniversary of the Mowlem Institute in Swanage, ambitious plans have been launched to raise a £160,000 cash injection to update equipment and help to pay off loans taken on to survive Covid lockdown.
The best seat in the house, J13, has a plaque dedicated to new patron of The Mowlem, film director and producer Edgar Wright
Chance to dedicate a seat in the auditorium
The Take Your Seat campaign launched on Monday 3rd April 2023 offers people the chance to dedicate a seat in The Mowlem to themselves or someone else.
For a £200 donation, an engraved plaque will be attached to a seat in the auditorium for the next 10 years and could raise £76,000 if all 380 seats are taken.
To officially launch the campaign, The Mowlem has dedicated the best seat in the house, J13, to its first patron, the award-winning film director Edgar Wright, who grew up in Swanage watching movies in The Mowlem as a child.
Edgar Wright, director of Hot Fuzz, watched movies in Swanage as a boy
Funds will help reduce Covid recovery loans
Other seats will be available on a first come, first served basis and while it doesn’t guarantee exclusive use of the seat at future events, The Mowlem’s management will try their best to accommodate sponsors.
Donations will fund necessary updates to the auditorium, including a new lighting desk and equipment to improve communication during live shows and cinema screenings.
New funds will also contribute to the running costs of The Mowlem and go towartds reducing the size of a Covid business recovery loan, enabling the Mowlem Institute Charity to continue offering a variety of entertainment for everyone in Swanage.
Plaques like Edgar’s can be secured for 10 years with a £200 donation
Every penny will help The Mowlem remain open
Laura Dickens, Mowlem trustee and fundraising chair, said:
“In 2023 we mark 160 years of the Mowlem Institute Trust, so what better way to celebrate than by launching an ambitious and vital fundraising year of activities?
“Every penny raised this year will enable our beloved theatre, cinema, showbar and community space to remain open for everyone to enjoy. We have big plans, and we know the generous businesses and people of Swanage and beyond will help us reach our ambitious target.
“The launch of our Take Your Seat campaign is your chance to join Edgar Wright, by dedicating a seat in the auditorium to a lost loved one, a family member, a friend or even yourself! We’d love to fill our auditorium with heartfelt dedications.”
Operations manager Thomas Curtis is excited about the theatre’s first stand up comedy night
The Mowlem is at the heart of the community
Operations manager of The Mowlem, Thomas Curtis said:
“Swanage is such a community town and we are trying to make sure that The Mowlem is at the heart of that community.
“It was set up 160 years to do just that – John Mowlem built it for the community and that’s what the theatre is still, in my mind.
“I think if we can set up a working model that will keep the theatre as a viable business for the next 50 years with lots of regular events that will keep it sustainable for the next 50 years, then we will have kept the original dream alive.
“If people can be a part of that by having a plaque or a memorial on their favourite seat, and help The Mowlem continue to support Swanage at the same time, that is a win-win situation.”
Stand up comedian Seann Walsh brings his Back From The Bed show to Swanage
Comedy connections helped secure booking
A new board of trustees at The Mowlem has turned its attention to putting on a broad, inclusive calendar of events across the year to appeal to as many people as possible.
To that end, it has just announced its first ever comedy night, with I’m A Celebrity star Seann Walsh in September 2023, which Thomas hopes will be just the start of a regular series of stand up performances at the theatre.
Sarah McHarry, a Swanage TV producer who has worked on Mock The Week, Room 101, Have I Got News for You, Live At The Apollo and Whose Line Is It Anyway, helped to make the comedy dream a reality.
Sarah was once a neighbour of Seann’s and knows his agents well, so used her comedy connections to secure the booking, which coincides with The Mowlem’s drive to book established comedians after conducting audience research.
Other comedians managed by the agency include household names such as Dawn French, Jonathan Ross, Michael McIntyre, Jo Brand and Jack Dee, as well as stand up comedians like Romesh Ranganathan, Angela Barnes, Rob Beckett, Phil Jupitus, Joanne McNally and many more.
The Mowlem may become part of the stand up comedy circuit
Thrilled to welcome such a big name
“We are thrilled to welcome such a big name from the comedy world to The Mowlem and hope Seann’s appearance will be the first of many great comedy nights, something we’ve been working hard on making a reality since our community consultation in 2020.
“We want to put The Mowlem firmly on the comedy venue map. There really is a huge appetite for stand up comedy and I hope that we can sell out – tickets are already going fast after just a few days on sale.
“Seann is represented by Off The Kerb who are quite simply the largest comedy management in the UK, representing a lot of household names.
“We are hoping that we can build up a great working relationship with them – watch this space! We are in a very early, tentative stage of establishing live comedy in Swanage, proving a thirst for it and that’s quite a big thing to do, but I have great hopes for the future.
“It would be fantastic to be on the stand up comedy circuit which includes the Lighthouse at Poole, Weymouth Pavilion, Bournemouth Pavilion, the Tivoli at Wimborne and others.
“I’d like to build up the profile of Swanage, and would love comedy to become part of the overall package that we offer not only to the tourists in summer, but to the residents as well.
“It’s so different watching the big events in your own town as opposed to having to travel; when events are on your doorstep it’s something different, I think that’s why we have sold so many tickets already for Seann.”
Seann, who finished in fifth place on the latest series of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, won the Chortle award for Best Show in March 2023 and is currently filming his new sitcom, while also recording a new podcast with Jack Dee – and recently became a dad, too.
But he has cleared his schedule in autumn to tour with his new show, Back From The Bed, which will carry a strict 14-year-plus age restriction due to likely swearing and adult content.
Sean finished fifth in the latest series of I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here
“Come along if you like me”
In his publicity material for the new show, Seann said:
“Did you know that comedians have to write their own blurb? I find that absolutely insane. What am I meant to say? ‘I’m fantastic, come and look at me talk’? I don’t know. It’s me. I do standup.
“I guess I can start with the fact I renamed the tour. Sticking with ‘Same Again?’ felt a bit triggering after the year we’ve had. So it is now called Back from the Bed.
“Some of the material will be the same as I had always planned and some of it will be new because it will be difficult to avoid mentioning the last year in which millions of decent people tragically lost their lives to TikTok.
“The previous leg of this tour got a lot of standing ovations, which was pleasing. Either that or they were leaving early. Come along if you like me. I’d be confident enough to say come along if you’re on the fence.”