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Look back at blaze at town arts venue

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: March 24, 2014

  • Fire at the Brewhouse

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A FIRE that recently forced the closure of a popular Derbyshire arts centre has brought back memories of a blaze that gutted a Burton venue almost a decade ago.

The Assembly Rooms, in Derby, will be closed for more than two months after a fire in an adjoining car park saw a large plume of black smoke engulf the city and firefighters launch a three-day operation to tackle the incident.

The inferno bore similarities to a blaze at the Brewhouse in 1996, which forced the Union Street centre to close for around six months.

Ken Brown, a former Brewhouse worker and volunteer, recalled the aftermath of the fire.

He said: “It was not all easy going. A fire in the box office in May 2006 closed the centre for six months.

“The flames of the fire were kept to a minimum by the fire doors, but the smoke damage throughout the building meant a refurbishment to the ground-floor public area and redecoration throughout the first floor.

“You can imagine the amount of electrics and cloth materials in a theatre environment.

“It was very hard on the user groups of the Brewhouse, as plays and concerts were already well into rehearsals.

“But thanks to a lot of hard work and help from local schools and other leisure centres the majority of performances still went ahead, albeit, in most cases, in very unusual surroundings.”

Things got back to normal in December 2006, with a rewired and refurbished theatre auditorium, a new box office area and a redesigned and modernised bar/bistro.

Independent Burton amateur performing group Little Theatre Company, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, had the honour of reopening the Brewhouse with its production of The King and I.

Philip Atkins, deputy leader for health and leisure at East Staffordshire Borough Council at the time, said: “Tremendous support was received from many volunteers of the Brewhouse, Burton and District Arts Council and other agencies and organisations.”

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