A jewel of an arts centre in the Cotswold's crown
28 August 2020
Tetbury, where our stunning Steepleton development is located, is a thriving market town with independent shops, businesses and community groups amongst which is the wonderful volunteer run arts centre, Tetbury Goods Shed, converted in 2016 from a former Great Western Railway building.
Ahead of its reopening in September for cinema and for more from October, we spoke to Trustee, Christine Berry to discover the story behind the arts centre.
Can you tell us about Tetbury Goods Shed and how it was established?
Our beautifully converted goods shed was the last remnant of the GWR Tetbury branch line station which closed in 1964. A group of local enthusiasts formed the Tetbury Rail Lands Regeneration Trust in 1997, to save the dilapidated buildings. With support from Tetbury Town Council and HRH The Prince of Wales, they pushed forward and funded plans to develop the land into a restful park and convert the crumbling building into an arts centre. Tetbury Goods Shed Arts Centre was opened in 2017 as a stunning 180 seat venue set in gorgeous parkland along a couple of miles of resurfaced railway track. Many local people worked very hard and still do to realise and keep the TRLRT’s vision for the Shed to be a regional centre of excellence for the arts, providing arts and entertainment for local people. Visitors and locals love our Whistle Stop Café with seating in Mary-Jane, a Finnish railway carriage and our interactive video display recording the history of the branch line and memories of the local people who used it. With a part time Administrator and Artistic Director and otherwise run and staffed by volunteers, our success in three years is astonishing.
What sort of events and activities do you run?
We have sadly been closed since the pandemic. However, usually we provide as wide a range of cultural events and activities as people want and will be reintroducing as many activities as possible when we are allowed. We have a beautiful Steinway piano which regularly attracts international classical musicians and is used for our prestigious Piano Series concerts. We run a very sociable weekly afternoon tea concert, where people are entertained by local musicians while they enjoy tea and cake from our excellent café. We host travelling plays each summer, a winter family pantomime, occasional one man shows and a classic or current film each Thursday. We have workshops, talks, exciting and eclectic art exhibitions, weekly jive classes comedy, music of all kinds from performers like Kiki Dee and Alistair McGowan. We hope to make last year’s successful book festival in conjunction with the Yellow Lighted Bookshop in Tetbury an annual event. There is a monthly jazz club with live music one Wednesday a month and soon there will be ballet classes for children. It is all in our monthly “What’s On” leaflet and on our website. We also host the newly established but very active Tetbury U3A. In between we offer the auditorium and carriage for local groups and business hire.
Who uses the Goods Shed?
People who have the time to spare and a lively interest in the arts! Many come in the daytime for the buzz of a busy café and the chance to meet friends and watch the world go by, especially on Saturday mornings when there is a stall selling fresh vegetables grown nearby. It is popular with local walkers and cyclists and the local Parkrun meets there. The range of entertainment on offer means there is something of interest every week for our audience which is mostly locally based in and around Tetbury and the surrounding villages, although we do get visitors from much further afield too.
How can others help support what you do?
Firstly, everyone can support our events by coming along! Tickets are available on our website, at the Tourist Information Centre in town and at the Goods Shed when it is open. We are staffed almost entirely by volunteers, who do everything from administering the Trust, reception, ticket sales and staffing events to gardening and maintaining the building. Two of the Pegasus Steepleton owners have a regular Friday afternoon slot welcoming visitors at reception and dealing with queries. They say it is one of the highlights of their week and makes them feel very much part of the local community.
Secondly, much of our equipment has been funded by donations from charities and individuals in the community. Early on, people contributed generously by “buying” individual seats to help pay for our retractable seating unit and donated towards restoring our railway carriage. Most recently, funds were raised to buy the excellent Steinway piano. We receive no funding from the Arts Council or local authorities and depend on ticket sales, fundraising activities or donations. So financial support for projects is always welcome.
What is your role at Goods Shed?
I have been involved with the Tetbury Rail Lands Regeneration Trust since the Arts Centre opened. I am company secretary and a trustee. We are very hands-on, each responsible for an area of operation in the Arts Centre and administering the trust. My area is mostly events and volunteers. I help the Artistic Director to choose much of what we put on and put together and train volunteer teams to run the events or anything else that needs volunteers. I seem to spend a lot of my time working behind the scenes but then I can enjoy an amazing Arts Centre on my doorstep.
What do you enjoy most about living/working in Tetbury?
I really enjoy being part of our lovely community, love the countryside and spend a lot of time walking locally but appreciate living in the town. We are so lucky to live in the Cotswolds. To me, Tetbury is the perfect size to have all the practical amenities – interesting, individual and practical shops, a supermarket, hospital, dentist, library, garages, pubs, restaurants, schools and of course an amazing Arts Centre! There is a lot to do if you are retired, like me. I would like to see Tetbury Goods Shed and the town develop more things which involve and entertain young people and children. They are not easy to get right or fund, but we must value the next generation. Involvement in the arts and sport are ideal ways of discovering yourself and belonging, whatever your age.
If you are looking for a home with all that Tetbury has to offer, then get in touch with our team to find out more about the homes and facilities available at our Steepleton development. Contact us on 01666 848219 or e mail us: [email protected]