ROBIN BROOKS has been a Highlights promoter in Barningham, County Durham, for 20 years. Performances take place in the village hall, a Grade II-listed Victorian school building.
“The hall is a very good space for smaller shows and seats 50 comfortably. It has been refurbished over the past five years and people say how cosy and welcoming it is. For the play Jacaranda, there was a big set in the middle and the audience surrounded the action. it was transformative, quite amazing.
“My wife George-Anne and I were introduced to Highlights by Rosie Cross [a co-director of Highlights for many years]. When I met her, she was so full of enthusiasm that I felt this crazy touring theatre business must be something worth getting involved in!
“George-Anne helps with everything and we dragoon a couple of others to give us a hand on the night. The Teesdale Mercury is very supportive and The Flyer, a monthly newsletter for local villages, is a very good medium for publicity. I haven’t grappled with social media yet.
“Sell-out shows tend to be by musicians who have a wide following. More and more people are coming to shows from outside the village and growing numbers are booking online. We have excellent feedback: “It’s great to feel part of the community”, “We really value having professional music, dance and theatre on the doorstep”; that kind of thing.
“Outstanding shows have included guitarist Eduardo Niebla, jazz greats Emma Fisk and James Birkett, storyteller Ben Haggarty and poet Liz Lochhead. Our hall is very good for such performances. There’s no stage so we are all on a level and there’s a real sense of intimacy.
“The pleasures of being a promoter include the general buzz when the audience appreciates a show. George-Anne and I also enjoy the promoters’ evenings and going to other shows and seeing how individual promoters do things. Mickleton’s village hall is the size of St Pancras station compared with ours.”
Highlights’ celebrates its 25th birthday in 2022.