LAST week I attended a Future Arts Centres meeting at Canada Water Theatre, a venue that has successfully combined a performance space, meeting rooms, library and café.

The venue overlooks the freshwater lake it’s named after in the Docklands in south-east London, further proof, if it’s needed, that these mixed-use community spaces are in demand.

Future Arts Centres was set up around six years ago to connect Chief Executives of arts centres, providing a network of support to help sustain and develop these cultural venues and their services.

The organisation is recognised as an advocator and enabler; most recently being asked by Arts Council England to deliver a project as part of the National Lottery’s 25th Anniversary. All arts centres present had benefited from Lottery funding and this project aims to connect communities and challenge the way we and artists work.It has raised ethical questions about funds acquired from gambling, notwithstanding this project will at least distribute Lottery money across the country.

I took advantage of the night away from home to watch Judy, a biographical film about the demise of American singer and actress Judy Garland. Renée Zellweger gave an outstanding performance as the troubled artist, with Darci Shaw (one to watch) appearing in her childhood flashbacks. It depicted Judy being ‘controlled’ on the set of The Wizard of Oz, the movie which shot her to stardom and set in motion the drug dependency that contributed to her untimely death.

The film reminded me to contact actors in this year’s Christmas production of The Railway Children, including Hannah Morrison who played Dorothy last year and will return as the elder Railway sibling this year.

Our talented local ensemble is already rehearsing; singing, tapping and acting their way through the wonderful musical numbers. You may have seen some of them parading down East Reach last Saturday, alongside our Carnival Float with its steaming train, looking every bit like the Green Dragon from Edith Nesbitt’s classic tale.

I was there to welcome them back to The Brewhouse with a hot chocolate. It was a pleasure to see them return, faces flushed and bright eyed. It makes a nice change from funding applications, petitioning, management accounts and drainage challenges...

Vanessa Lefrancois
Chief Executive of Taunton Theatre Association