Richmond Operatic Society draws up plans to preserve base

Rishi Sunak MP and John Holliday, chairman of Richmond Operatic Society, outside the group's home in Bargate, Richmond.

Richmond Operatic Society is heading for its centenary year aiming to be in the best shape possible. 

But to do so, the needs to secure the long-term future of its Grade II-listed base. 

The former Methodist Chapel in Bargate is riddled with damp and the group needs to fix it to enable the building to be used more widely by the local community and sustain its future.

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The society has enlisted the help of Rishi Sunak, MP for Richmond, who was recently shown round the building by the group’s chairman John Holliday. 

Mr Holliday said the society met its day-to-day running costs from the two productions it mounted every year and its finances were in a much better state than they once were. 

But the society’s home – which is used for rehearsals and storage of the group’s extensive collection of props, scenery and costumes – was something of a liability as well as a valuable asset. 

He said: “We are lucky to have our own premises but the building is deteriorating and we need about £25-30,000 to fix a damp problem at the rear of the building so we can improve the kitchen facilities. It would then be suitable for a much wider range of community uses.” 

Mr Sunak has offered to compile a list of possible funding sources to help with the cost of the works. 

He said: “The society makes a major contribution to the cultural life of the town but its building needs a lot of work to make the most of its potential, both for the society and the wider community. 

“Richmond has a great tradition of amateur opera and drama and I am happy to do what I can to help the society secure the future of its listed building which is part of the history of the town.” 

The society, which has 50  members, has just staged its latest production – Scrooge the Musical – at the Georgian Theatre Royal. 

Earlier this year, it won a best performance award from the National Operatic and Dramatic Association for its previous production of Pirates of Penzance.