From pantomimes to comedians, Mansfield Palace Theatre has recorded a record number of ticket sales. Sarah Bryan looks at if this filters down to local amateur dramatic groups.

A normal day in Mansfield’s Palace Theatre is varied, from selling tickets, hosting shows, and most importantly entertaining the town and the surrounding areas.

A venue which opened its doors in 1910 on Leeming Street, has despite residents tightening their belts to save a spare quid or two, reported a 12 per cent increase in ticket sales since 2005.

However, despite the Leeming Street entertainment venue welcoming more than 100,000 visitors in the last year alone, it seems the local drama groups encouraging young people to get into theatre are struggling.

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Chairman Daryl Annable of New Beginnings Theatre Group, has been involved in theatre for 40 years, yet despite setting up this group it sadly closed its doors a few months ago due to a decline in young people joining.

The 54-year-old said: “It is a sad fact that there are fewer amateur groups for young people to engage with, which has led to a massive downturn in opportunities for the local youth.

“It is simply too expensive to sustain a new amateur theatre group due to the fees charged by the local theatre.”

Despite ticket increases for the Palace, it would seem that this is not reflected in local dramatic groups.

He added: “I have been involved in amateur theatre for many years, I have seen the Palace Theatre, formally the Civic Theatre, evolve hugely, from amateur productions to more professional shows.

“This has been a double edged sword as many of the local theatre groups have fallen by wayside. The growth in numbers of people attending the Palace may be down to the variety of professional shows available.

“Generally there is something for everyone and a quicker turnover of shows may encourage people to take a closer look at what’s on in Mansfield.”

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From April 2016 to March 2017, attendance at the venue has increased by 12 per cent, against the same period the year before, meaning an additional 11,000 seats have been sold.

A member of Mansfield’s Masque Productions, an amateur society putting plays on and encouraging talent to perform on the big stage for the last forty years, Elizabeth Fitzpatrick said why people choose to go to the theatre, but the challenges local groups also face.

The 50-year-old said: “People want to go to the theatre to escape the realities of life. Whether they want to laugh or cry.

“The amateur groups try and keep ticket prices at a reasonable price for the area they are performing in.

“They have upped their game and try and be professional with costumes and sets, competing with West End shows.”

Hannah Johnson, studied drama and dance at Bilborough College,and believes that despite the stigma of art subjects not being deemed ‘proper’ the drama clubs are in fact growing in population as more interest grows.

The 20-year-old said: “I think the theatre’s pricing is affordable and good quality for the show content to which I believe people would rather go out to the theatre rather than go to the cinema as there is much more variety to be offered.”

“I believe that Mansfield has a diverse amount of art clubs and schools, which are growing in population allowing them to produce shows at the Mansfield Palace Theatre. It helps more as families and friends have always supported and come to watch performances helping increase the spread of people watching and getting involved in theatre in Mansfield.

“Being involved in the arts myself I often find that if a company put on a popular production people will book for it even if they don’t know any of the cast, it is a night out for them and I’m pleased to see theatre culture finally picking up.”

Mansfield Palace Theatre’s cultural services manager Andrew Tucker, said how delighted he was at the rise in audience numbers.

He said: “Breaking the sales record is an amazing tribute to the fantastic talent that has performed on our stage in the last 12 months.

“I find it very exciting that we are attracting some of the UK’s most acclaimed companies, showbiz names and events, which in turn has drawn lots of new audiences through our doors.”

However not just local groups are feeling the pinch, students involved in musical theatre said why the Palace may be performing better due to a rise in cinema ticket prices.

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The theatre has played host to several high-profile events over the last year from world premieres of Steve Steinman’s ‘Iconic’ to UK comedians Chris Ramsey and David Starkey.

Comedian and live theatre shows are not all that has been gracing the stage at Mansfield, the notable Northern Ballet have also staged iconic shows from The Nutcracker to Goldilocks and the Three Bears.