The Swallow Theatre is a restored and converted barn at Moss Park, Ravenstone, about three miles from Whithorn. It was purchased by Jill and David Sumner in 1990. Both had a passion for theatre, and were inspired by the outbuildings at Moss Park to realise their dream of having their own theatre. Over the next few years some informal play readings were arranged with friends and a small invited audience, and then (in May 1995) an evening of World War II songs and poetry to commemorate VE Day. By that time the invited audience had grown from just three (at the first play reading) to around 30, with more interested, so they decided to take the plunge and become an official theatre. At first, seats were improvised or brought by the audience; but thanks to a small Lottery Grant (awarded in 1998) and a ‘Sponsor a Seat’ campaign, the theatre now has a fully retractable seating system with 50 comfortable seats. With the help of Galloway Groundbase, a toilet block was added at the end of 1999 and disabled car parking in 2000.
Each year swallows had nested in the Barn, producing at least one brood, sometimes two. During performances the adults birds would swoop through the tiny gap at the top of the Barn door, feed their young in the nest (to a short chorus of excited twittering) and fly out again, seemingly unperturbed by the goings on below. So the name for the Theatre had to be “The Swallow”. For obvious practical reasons we have had to exclude the swallows from the theatre itself, but they are now nesting busily in the pend at the foot of the path up to the theatre.
An unusual feature of the theatre is that all the lighting is powered from renewable sources – four solar panels and a wind turbine. These charge four 6 volt batteries which supply the power for a 12-channel dimmer board and 18 spotlights.
Over the years we have enlarged our programme to about 15 events per season. We try to provide a wide range of events – drama (including original work), music (classical, folk and jazz), poetry and play readings, and ‘theme nights’. Several well-known musicians, actors and music groups have visited the theatre; but a vital part of the theatre is the contribution made by its members and audience, and ‘home-grown’ events including a pantomime, a Christmas play, and several plays especially written for the small space at ‘The Swallow’, are very popular. Because the theatre is small and intimate, visitors often comment on the ‘unique atmosphere’.
The Swallow Theatre also organises and promotes events at other local venues, including Glasserton Church and Bladnoch Distillery. We also present plays at the St Ninian Festival in Whithorn.
At present most of our audience is local, but all are welcome. Tickets tend to sell quickly, especially for popular events.
To receive full details of all our events, and to get priority booking, join our mailing list. It costs just £5 a year to be a subscriber – please contact us at Moss Park, Ravenstone, Whtihorn DG8 8DR, Telephone 01988 850368. www.swallowtheatre.com