THE volunteers at the Princess Theatre in Burnham On Sea are worth their weight in gold.

The social value of volunteering to the popular community theatre in the town is worth between £70,000 - £80,000 per year.

This is what the 24 volunteers would have to be paid if they receive a wage for doing the work they do but gladly give up their time for free.

It is down to these stalwarts the theatre is flourishing and is going from strength to strength, six years after it was taken over by Burnham and Highbridge Town Council from Sedgemoor District Council.

The town council bought the building for £1 but wanted to work with the Friends of the Princess who run the day to day details of the building.

The Princess Theatre and Arts Centre was renamed to emphasise its purpose as a place for the arts and the community.

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This is the community feel good factor which everyone at the theatre want to emphasis to people in the town.

The Princess Theatre is not just a theatre where people can see shows. It has been transformed into a community hub.

It is used by a number of groups for a lot of events such as indoor kurling, beading, social bingo, a location where art produced by local artists can be exhibited, junior theatre groups and rooms can be hired out for business meetings or as a location which you can used for an event.

The theatre has come along way and been transformed since it was built in 1869 by the Market House and Town Hall Company at a cost of £2,000.

During its time it has been used as a Council Chamber, as a covered market and accommodated the town fire station under its first floor auditorium.

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But now it is definitely a community facility run by the community for the community.

One of the people who helped with this change was the late Neil Hansford.

He created the arts space in the theatre which has proved so popular. He was also responsible for making sure local artists could exhibit free but with the proviso if they sold some art then the the theatre would be entitled to a percentage of the sale.

This has proved so popular there is a waiting list of at least a year for artists to wait to exhibit their work.

Deputy manager, Craig Denny said: “Our 24 volunteers are worth between £70,000 - £80,000 to us per year.

“They do so much for us such as ushering people to their seats and working in the coffee shop.

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“Without their help we would not be able to operate and their time and effort are helping us and the community.

“We are always on the look out for more volunteers to join us and are looking for people to help in different areas.

“This would include those from a financial background, looking for youngsters to help deliver leaflets and the newsletter and also those with computer knowledge to help us with the website.

“We have an open door policy and what people to see what they have on their doorstep.”

One ‘dynamic duo’ who volunteer at the theatre are husband and wife team. Alan and Jan Huddart.

The couple who have been married for 30 years love volunteering at the theatre.

Alan who has always been a volunteer said: “We have both been volunteering at the theatre for six years.

“Jan is the main co-ordinator of all the volunteers.

“Everything we do we do together and that is one of the reasons we volunteers together.

“We enjoy helping out here and I would say to people if they want to volunteer and give up their time then they will find a great bunch of people at the theatre.

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“I love coming here and I think I speak for Jan when I say this it is a great place to come and help out.”

Looking to the future Craig said they are all delighted a number of the shows get sold out like the tribute acts but they were always looking to bring different acts or plays to the theatre.

The aim is to move forward with more proper theatre as well as what people already enjoy.

If you want to become a volunteer at The Princess Theatre they would be please to hear form you.

As it states on the Princess Theatre website at : “We are always looking for volunteers to help run our busy Arts Lounge cafe, to sell tickets for our events, to usher at performances and concerts or to assist in the busy schedule of setting up and configuring our spaces - turning our 200 seat theatre into a community hall and back again.Somerset County Gazette: “If you are able to spend a few hours each week assisting with the many and varied things that happen in front of and behind the scenes to keep The Princess open and running smoothly, then please call in or telephone to enquire.

“You’ll find that you’ll be joining a select band of valued volunteers who are helping their community to stand out from the rest.”

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For further information contact Volunteer Co-ordinator Jan Huddart on 01278 785083 or visit between 10am and 3pm, Tuesday to Saturday.