AFTER quite a long time away from the Borough Theatre it was wonderful to be back behind the scenes working with A4B and the new management team at the venue to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day last week.

For the first time since the covid lockdowns and the lengthy closure of the theatre it’s clear that things are back on an even keel and it is once again embracing the amateur community which for the past 100 years or so has been at its very core.

Everyone involved commented on how great it was to see all of the companies based at the theatre who helped put the town council spear-headed event together, working alongside the professional team at the theatre in a way that we have all missed over the past  five or six years.

What was even better was that the evening offered the chance for companies to meet various professionals associated with the theatre with the promise of lots of new and exciting collaborations to come.

There was a downside to the evening however…it brought home a bit too vividly how long it’s been since I’ve helped build a set and take it back down again!

After an evening of ‘air raid shelter’ building and heaving sandbags around it became clear to me that my theatre muscles have been sorely underused in the past few years….with sorely being the operative word.

As I hobbled around on Friday there was little sympathy to be had from the housemate or the mother.

“You’re not very caring when I mention by bad arms and shoulders,” said the mother.

“And you didn’t sympathise when I had sciatica a few months ago,” added the housemate.

“This is different,” I snapped, struggling to straighten up enough to give a haughty sneer. “I’ve got my pain serving the community!”

One of the highlights of the D-Day commemorations was seeing WWII veteran Mel Hughes on parade, paying tribute to his former colleagues.

At 99 years old Mel still volunteers at the Borough Theatre, where he and his wife Vera have been virtually permanent fixtures for almost 40 years.

In a week when the Welsh Government prepares to launch a new volunteering strategy they’d do well to look at the model of the team which ran front of house operation at the Borough for so many years.

When the theatre’s former manager Nick Banwell once proposed setting up a rewards scheme to recognise their outstanding contribution, which he acknowledged had saved the theatre hundreds of thousands of pounds over the years, they were - to a person - utterly appalled and refused to countenance receiving free tickets to shows as a thank you for their services.

“We do this because we love the theatre, not because of what we can get out of it,” they announced.

“If we want to see a show, we’ll pay for a ticket like everyone else!”

Now, the Welsh Government plans to create a new strategy for volunteering in Wales to provide a ‘unifying and uniquely Welsh vision for volunteering and a framework for delivering it’.

Let’s just hope they don’t legislate so much that they completely ruin a great thing as so easily can happen!