Celebrations for the 80th birthday of The Deco Theatre are taking place this year...and organisers want to find someone born on May 2, 1936.
Originally The Savoy - a cinema-theatre that first opened its doors on May 2, 1936 - The Deco, as it is now known, has since hosted internationally famous names such as The Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
More recently, bouncing back from a period of decline in the late 1990s, The Deco has become a popular local theatre, putting on acclaimed pantos each Christmas since 2009, and providing family entertainments shows throughout the year which attract audiences from the town, the county and beyond.
“This has been a fantastic local facility since 1936, and its 80 years deserve to be celebrated,” said Jill Roach, of Northampton-based Stage Right Productions, that now runs it as The Deco Theatre.
“We’re proud that it’s once again providing top class entertainment for the people of Northampton and around, and though it’s been hard work since we took over the running of The Deco seven years ago, it has been, and is, incredibly rewarding.
“We originally provided technical support for the management of the theatre, but they offered us the opportunity to run it as a fully operational local theatre back in early 2009, and we couldn’t resist the challenge.
“We put on the ‘Peter Pan’ Panto that year in three months, but we had great response from local people, both in their support for what we were doing, and for their verdict on the show, and we’ve gone from there,” she said. “Last year’s Panto was fantastic, virtually selling out throughout the run, and the feedback was extremely positive and uplifting.
“We’ve been on an incredible journey, and it’s been a great learning experience for us in many ways – indeed, we’re learning all the time, but that’s because we want to make sure that everyone who comes to The Deco finds it a pleasant and enjoyable experience.
“But we are proud that we are offering top class entertainment at affordable prices, so that an evening out at the theatre is something that everyone can enjoy.”
The Deco will be hosting a party later in the year to mark its 80th birthday, and Jill Roach is hoping that the star guest will be someone who was born on May 2, 1936.
She said: “We are really keen to hear from a local resident who also celebrates their 80th birthday on May 2: it would be lovely to invite them, and their family, to a joint celebration.
“We are also looking for local people to contact us with their own memories of The Deco over the years – maybe someone who saw The Beatles, or the Rolling Stones – so we can print them on our social media sites, and invite them, too, to our party.”
When The Savoy first opened its doors on May 2, 1936, it was described at the time as “Northampton’s only super Cinema”, and reported to be “the last word in comfort”.
It was part of the ABC group, designed by their house architect WR Glen, and built in under nine months on the site of the original Technical College. From the opening night, The Savoy became a hugely popular venue, with a capacity for just under 2000 people, and designed both as a cinema and theatre, complete with an orchestra pit.
In the 1950s it was renamed The ABC, in line with the group’s national branding, and became the local venue of choice for the top touring bands of the 1960s, with The Beatles playing twice in 1963, the Rolling Stones in 1965, and - infamously - PJ Proby in 1965, when he was arrested for splitting his trousers on stage!
In 1974, it was converted to a three-screen cinema complex, and continued to thrive for some time. But by the turn of the 1990s - by now renamed Cannon Cinema – it struggled to compete with the modern multiscreen complexes, and finally closed its doors in 1995.
The building was derelict for five years, until in 2000 it was purchased by the Jesus Army Charitable Trust, to be converted to a church centre and multi-purpose venue, opening in October 2004 as The Deco and the Jesus Centre. The management began using the venue for theatrical productions, with Stage Right offering technical support, before the company took over the running of the theatre in 2009.
The Deco has also established itself in the past seven years as one of Northampton’s top venues for hire, for hosting conferences, meetings, wedding receptions, parties and other social or corporate events.
“We have fantastic facilities, and we have catered for a multitude of events,” said Jill Roach.
“From Christmas parties to corporate away days, and much more. Basically, The Deco is a fantastic local facility, and I am proud of what it provides to Northampton, its growing reputation, and the variety of entertainment we are providing.”