Meet the B.O.A.T.
One of Brighton’s most closely guarded secrets is the existence of its open air theatre, BOAT. It’s within ten minutes walk of our house and until this week, although I had caught tantalising glimpses of it from the top of a bus, I had never been inside.
The theatre has an interesting history. It all started with a charismatic Brighton man called Adrian Bunting, who was a construction manager by profession, a playwright by hobby and an ardent supporter of live theatre by inclination. In the 1990s he founded Brighton’s only regular cabaret venue, the Zincbar and he had an unshakeable belief in the power and importance of live theatre.
In 2013 he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and six weeks later he was dead. He was 47 years of age.
Knowing that he was going to die, he decided to put in train a set of events that would result in Brighton having its own open air theatre. He gathered a group of friends together and between them they sketched out the outline of a unique amphitheatre on a former bowling green in Dyke Road Park on the outskirts of the town. He recognised that Brighton was one of the most artistic and creative towns in the UK and he believed that it deserved its own open air space to promote live theatre to tourists and residents alike during the summer months. He donated his own savings of £18,000 to get the fundraising started and called on his friends to make his dream a reality.
A year later, Brighton Open Air Theatre opened its gate for the first time. The BOAT was launched.
Facilities at the BOAT are limited. Actors have to get changed in what used to be the club house of the now defunct bowls club, a small wooden garden shed has been erected to enable drinks to be served during performances, and the nearest toilets are miles away in the park outside the fence.
After only three years in operation, the BOAT is able to put on a full, four-month season of plays, concerts and other theatrical events, that starts in May at the time of the Brighton Festival and goes on until September. The Brighton Little Theatre was offered two performance slots this year and thus brought Frankenstein and She Stoops to Conquer to the stage.
Yes, this volunteer is vacuuming the stage. Astroturf is wonderful stuff!