MORE than 150 people travelled from all over the country to Marsden to join Mikron Theatre Company in their home town in celebrating the group’s 40th anniversary.
The local residents of this rural village were surprised to see the brightly dressed guests as they arrived at the Mechanics Hall for Sunday lunch, entertainments and reminiscences.
The invitations to the party had asked guests to dress in red to mark Mikron’s ruby anniversary and they had certainly risen to the occasion.
The Ruby Do brought together actors from every decade of the company’s touring history together with writers, designers, administrators and the company’s loyal audience members – the Friends of Mikron.
Many of those who were unable to attend sent messages of support and memories of their time with Mikron.
Actor Mark Williams, of Fast Show and Harry Potter fame, spent his first three years and gained his Equity Card as a performer working for Mikron. He talked fondly of his time with the company.
After lunch a number of people who had worked with Mikron over the years were interviewed in a Desert Island Discs format, by the company’s current artistic director, Marianne McNamara and producer, Peter Toon.
Mikron tour the country by narrow boat, playing in canal side venues, often pubs and beer gardens, taking theatre to areas and audiences away from the larger towns and cities. Unsurprisingly a couple of themes emerged throughout the various interviews; crashing the boat, falling in the cut (canal) and the effect of sampling the local brews en route.
Guests were also treated to performances of songs selected from the 46 original shows which have been produced over the four decades.
Mikron has a very large and supportive group of followers and friends from all around the country, many of whom had travelled great distances to celebrate together on Sunday.
Their unique contribution to the company, and their support during the hard times over the four decades, was acknowledged by the company’s founder Mike Lucas who made an emotional speech in which he recognised the importance of these friendships.
Marianne McNamara summed up the unique relationship between the company and its audiences, “What makes Mikron special is the feeling of belonging you get while travelling the waterways, because of the type of places we perform. The actors are always out talking to the punters and getting to know them. There’s a real sense of community among the people that follow us – they’re always telling us stories about their memories of the company or the first show they saw.”
Actor Nicola Redman, who has just completed her first season for Mikron continued: “I’ve had a growing sense of the loyalty of Mikron’s audiences over the tour, but today has really brought home the appreciation of their involvement. I’ve been genuinely moved by the stories and I am proud and honoured to have been involved in the company.”
Over the 40 years, Mikron has, of course, been subject to the ups and downs of the economy and of funding for the arts. Mike Lucas reminded the guests about the times when Mikron has been on the brink of closure due to lack of funding and talked of how his belief in the company, and of the audience’s will for the company to survive, have saved Mikron.
This past year has seen Mikron without any formal funding and the tour has been financed entirely through donations and sponsorship. The company launched a Ruby Appeal in 2010 that has so far raised £41,000. It is entirely thanks to the generosity of Mikron’s fans that it has been able to survive into its 40th year.
The day finished at six o’clock with Mike Lucas being given a standing ovation and many fond farewells being said, until next year, when the company will be touring two new shows along the country’s waterways.
James Sykes, chairman of Mikron’s council of management summed up the day: “It’s been a wonderful and very emotional day. I am incredibly proud to be associated with a company that’s survived a glorious 40 years and I look forward to the next decade at least.”