The Bear Pit was formed in the autumn of 2008 with the aim of creating a permanent, sustainable home for the amateur arts groups in Stratford upon Avon and of creating a focus for the many arts groups in the town.
The Bear Pit organises the first Arts Showcase Day in Stratford’s Civic Hall, over twenty of Stratford’s arts societies involved – described in the press as ‘..a trade exhibition for the performing arts’.July:
Award winning comedian Alistair McGowan performs his new one man stand-up show at the Civic Hall to raise funds for The Bear Pit.
The Bear Pit website was launched.
Bear Pit directors start to look for a suitable building in Stratford-upon-Avon which could be converted into a theatre. Also visit successful community arts venues operating around the country – particularly those which were run by volunteers and not supported by local councils.
The Town Trust gives The Bear Pit a grant to improve and develop its website.
The Bear Pit organises a second Arts Showcase, twenty five arts groups involved and the event is extended to three days.
Talks start with the Stratford Town Trust’s Chief Executive, Richard Eggington aimed at gaining support for the creation of a permanent home for the arts in the town.
The Bear Pit directors meet the Rev. Graham Spicer of the United Reformed Church in Rother Street. Discussions begin with the aim of developing the church hall into a theatre and exhibition space.
The Bear Pit launches its ‘What’s On’ leaflet, advertising events by the Stratford arts societies. The leaflet was distributed to approximately 3,500 addresses in the Stratford upon Avon area.
Wilson Roberts directs a production of ‘Toad of Toad Hall’ at Stratford Civic Hall to raise funds for The Bear Pit.
Mayor Cllr Jenny Fradgley gifted money from the Mayor’s Fund to The Bear Pit in recognition of the positive work it is doing for the arts in Stratford.
The Bear Pit hosts a fund-raising ball in at the Stratford Manor Hotel raising £5,000.
Geraldine Collinge, Director of the RSC Events and Exhibitions Department approaches The Bear Pit, suggesting a joint venture. The aim to produce a showcase, an ‘Open House’ event, for the Bear Pit’s performing arts groups. The resulting show in December is one of the many events celebrating the opening of the refurbished Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
‘Open House’ showcases the work of thirteen of The Bear Pit’ performing arts societies and plays with great success to a full house at the new RST.
The Bear Pit’s performing arts groups are invited to assist the RSC by trialling its planned Open Stages workshops. The RSC launches its Open Stages project, with its aims of developing and celebrating amateur theatre.
The Bear Pit under its new Chairman, Simon Allen, begins to forge links with Stratford businesses.
The Bear Pit’s ‘What’s On’ flyer covering six months of events is distributed to over 6,000 addresses in and around Stratford.
The Bear Pit is named as one of the RSC’s partner companies in its Open Stages project, to sit alongside such illustrious names as The Little Theatre Guild and NODA. Nine of The Bear Pit’s performing arts groups take part in the project
Geraldine Collinge offers The Bear Pit and its performing arts groups the opportunity of repeating the highly successful ‘Open House’ venture in the Swan Theatre in December.
Talks with the United Reformed Church reaching a conclusion.
Proposed plans for the redevelopment of the hall were drawn up and a feasibility study undertaken, The Town Trust agrees to pay half the costs.
6,000 copies of the Bear Pit July-December What’s On flyer are distributed.
A fund raising initiative, ‘Faulty Towers’ – The Gourmet Night Experience, runs for five consecutive Sundays in collaboration with Cafe Pasta in Stratford.
The Bear Pit holds a successful two-day autumn Showcase using the whole of United Reformed Church building for the Bear Pit’s art, craft and music societies.
‘Open House’ at RSC Swan Theatre, 11 performing arts societies take part.
Reluctantly the Bear Pit directors decide to discontinue the ‘What’s On’ flyer which although very popular, is time consuming to organise and loses money.
The United Reformed Church agrees that The Bear Pit can use the church hall as a theatre space. The Bear Pit directors agree to concentrate their energies on raising funds to develop the theatre.
Dad’s Army is staged in United Reformed Church in Rother Street; the first joint venture between the URC and The Bear Pit.
To raise further funds, The Bear Pit company stages after-dinner entertainment for Rotary Clubs and other groups in and around Warwickshire.
Confusions by Alan Ayckbourn, a collaboration between Second Thoughts Drama Group & The Bear Pit, the first to be staged in the proposed theatre space.
The Bear Pit cast of ‘Bazaar and Rummage’ meet Sue Townsend at the Stratford Literary Festival.
The back wall of Church Hall repainted. Bear Pit given 45 audience chairs, mirrors for dressing rooms, and black curtaining for back wall of the theatre. The United Reformed Church members purchase a further 25 chairs to be used jointly by church and theatre.
The Bear Pit hosts its first touring company. Nuworks Theatre Company from Melbourne, Australia touring the UK perform three plays in the United Reformed Church.
‘Vicar of Dibley’ is staged in the United Reformed Church and plays to capacity houses.
Kim Hartman becomes Patron of the Bear Pit Theatre
Further fund raising performances of Faulty Towers are staged in collaboration with Wildwood Kitchen in Stratford.
Warwickshire County Council issues a grant to URC for improvements to the side path.
Outside companies and one-man shows start to book the theatre.
Theatre walls are painted black and all walls covered with black curtaining.
New lighting rig is installed giving capability of hanging 46 lights.
5-year lease signed with the United Reformed Church.
Existing double doors in corridor are opened up to form a new entrance to the theatre.
Existing path to theatre is repaired and improved.
Nuworks Theatre Company returns to The Bear Pit on a further tour of the UK.
Bear Pit gains membership of the Little Theatre Guild
Official opening of the theatre by Kim Hartman and launch of the new Bear Pit website.