The Borough of Chesterfield has a proud record of supporting civic theatre.
The Stephenson Memorial Hall, an adult-education institute with a large meeting hall, was built in 1879 to commemorate the railway engineer George Stephenson (1781-1848) who spent the last years of his life in the town and is buried there.
Chesterfield Corporation bought the hall in 1889 and subsequently enlarged it to create a theatre stage and proscenium, but it was leased to a cinema company until 1946.
When the lease expired the borough council established a civic repertory theatre company, which opened in February 1949 with a production of Philip King’s See How They Run (1945).
Weekly repertory theatre, in which a cast on contract rehearse next week’s play in the daytimes while performing each evening and some matinées, became fortnightly in 1965, and continued until as late as March 1981. The final show, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat broke the house record, playing for three weeks at 98% capacity.
This hard-working little theatre, serving a local population of around 90,000, claimed illustrious alumni. Nigel Davenport and David McCallum were in the cast of Hobson’s Choice, the 200th production (1954), and Diana Rigg made her stage debut while assistant stage manager in The Passing of the Third Floor Back (1958).
The council set up a new production company, Chesterfield Theatre Ltd, which operated the theatre as a touring house from February 1982, and adopted the name Pomegranate Theatre in June of that year. The pomegranate tree “leaved and eradicated proper flowered and fructed Or” appears on the ancient seal of the borough and in the modern borough coat of arms.
The Pomegranate is an intimate, welcoming venue with a rich diet of drama, music, film and other events. It is supported by the Chesterfield Theatre Friends, a group which promotes events, raises funds and looks after the theatre’s archive: http://www.chesterfieldtheatrefriends.co.uk/about-us.aspx.
There is also a separate Pomegranate Theatre Friends Membership Scheme [http://www.chesterfieldtheatres.co.uk/our-theatres/membership.aspx which offers discounts, advance booking opportunities and free parking to regular patrons.