Ali Campbell at Frome's Merlin Theatre
Recently I started working at the Merlin in Frome, Somerset, and, as with all theatres, waved the typical 9-5 out the window.
But what a snapshot of the Frome arts scene it has given me! Lurking late in the offices I hear more rehearsals, workshops and events than I can keep tabs on. And these evening eavesdropping sessions serve to remind me why Frome deserves its place firmly on the creative map.
I agree with Ivan Massow, former chairman of London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, who once admired "the ease and abundance with which creativity flows in this town"; everywhere you look there is an arts project of some description and home-grown talent is abundant.
Frome Musical Theatre Company recently mesmerised audiences at the Memorial Theatre with Sweeney Todd; while the Merlin Theatre Company's production of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland brings together a cast of 57 this December to dazzle in a Christmas epic.
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The quality of the talent is also impressive. Resident Mark Bruce has set Guardian and Times reviewers alight with a thrilling, atmospheric production of Dracula, choreographed by Bruce for the Mark Bruce Company and touring to critical acclaim. His home-coming performance at the Merlin Theatre is sold out but weekly dance classes will resume with the company after the tour. Keeping the links local, the company's designer Marian Bruce is currently exhibiting as one of three contrasting artists at Black Swan Arts. Further up the hill Rook Lane Arts continue to provide a compelling arts programme in their beautifully converted space, adding to the wealth of options for arts-lovers to enjoy.
My eavesdropping has shown me how closely different arts groups work together in Frome and I remain impressed at the willingness of local venues to pull together to support the local arts scene. From The List to online groups such as Frome Creative Network and What's On: FROME, it's remarkably easy to tap into the rich choice on offer.
But there's always space to grow and develop, for this charming town to rival its larger cousins in cultural output and reputation. So why not pop down to Frome Library at 6.30pm on Thursday, November 14, and join representatives from local venues and arts communities to discuss the development of Frome's Cultural Quarter? The panel will discuss their visions and ideas for the Frome Cattle Market site. All are welcome and, if I free myself from my evening eavesdropping, I'll see you there.