Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Arts venues.

Frome is, for a town of approximately 25,500 inhabitants, blessed with a remarkable selection of arts venues, both for static displays and performance arts.  In the latter category the Cheese and Grain, capacity 800 and hopefully soon to be augmented in both capacity and facilities, is the most versatile if not particularly architecturally distinguished. It is a 19th century produce-market hall that has been adapted many times since. Frome also has two theatres, The Memorial Theatre completed in 1924 in memory of those killed in the Great War and the more recent Merlin Theatre, which seats about 250 and is part of the Frome College campus. All three are used for all kinds of performance arts and other live shows.
Then there are many historic pubs, some of which regularly feature live music: amongst those most active are The Griffin and The Olive Tree (link currently broken, phone 01373 467140) and also many other venues that are used from time to time, most notably for the annual Frome Festival - taking place this year from 8 - 17 July.
One however, that survives at all more by luck than judgement, is the most architecturally significant and spectacular by a long mile.  Built when Frome was a town very wealthy indeed, based on the wool trade, it spent 251 years in continuous use as a non-conformist place of worship before it was declared redundant and then spent the next quarter of a century falling into decay. It was eventually compulsorily purchased by the local authority and restored.
It now houses, appropriately enough, an architects' practise in the ante-rooms while the main section is used as a space for static and performance arts both traditional and modern by the trust Rook Lane Arts.

As well as being an early example of such a building on a grand scale the bountiful finance saw to it that it did not have the minimalist functionality of many and that its patrons succumbed to more than a flourish of the baroque. Nobody - whose mission was truly to live the life of an ascetic - would ever have sanctioned windows like those!
When it was built John Wesley certainly wasn't preaching simplicity and sobriety to the masses in open-air sermons across Britain, such as became his trademark, not least because he was then only a toddler (b. June 28, 1703)!
I'm not the religious kind in any traditional sense but wish to thank those that were for the venue.

No comments: