Back in 1988, the Royal Wanganui Opera House was tired, neglected, and no longer served the needs of a modern audience. Like the elderly Queen Victoria, in whose reign the Opera House was built to commemorate, the building itself grew tired - so tired that its guardians, Whanganui City Council, announced that, because it was concerned about the cost of running the historic theatre, it might hand the Opera House over to the community to run.
A public meeting was called and it was clear there was a group of people who valued the building for its historic significance. From this meeting, the Friends of the Opera House was formed; a small group of ten determined to preserve the historic building as a "full working theatre for the use and enjoyment of the community".
Public interest was maintained and a formal committee formed in 1990. The impact of their determination and generosity filtered through the community, with support from businesses and the Historic Places Trust. The Friends of the Opera House flourished!
As a volunteer group, the Friends benefit from the proceeds from the bar and sweet-stall, local grant schemes and contributions from the local community. These funds have enabled the Friends to provide financial support to some of our young people to further their theatrical experiences.
The Friends volunteers voluntary labour can be measured in the thousands of hours, providing front-of-house staff and back stage drew for performances, and they are always on the look out for new volunteers.
Why not pop along to their working bee at the Opera House on a Tuesday night at 7.30pm to see what it's all about.