A THEATRE that was under threat of closing its doors for good now describes its future as 'healthy'. 

Following a difficult year when costs tripled due to hefty energy rates and the cost of living, successful fundraising efforts have helped put the volunteer-led John Peel Theatre in Wigton back on track. 

Co-chair Kate Jenson indicated that the energy crisis, which saw the theatre's annual energy bill catapult from £3,000 to £10,000 last year, is now behind them with the theatre even increasing its membership numbers.

As well as bringing in revenue from growing ticket and refreshment sales, energy-saving fundraising initiatives such as the use of six batteries at a cost of £30,000, aimed at storing daytime-captured solar energy, have helped.

"We have stopped worrying about closing doors for good," Ms Jenson said. "We know the batteries are working which is making our bills affordable.

"We're fundraising for the next round for the energy-saving upgrades, that will all help bring our costs down. 

"The theatre is looking pretty healthy now, it's in a very positive place at the moment."

The stored power is used for the theatre's evening productions, bringing the venue closer to its self-sufficient goals with new lighting and heating upgrades in the works. 

"There was a bit of a battle with it but it seems to be working and has reduced our bills significantly, making heading into the winter a whole lot easier. 

"The stage lighting pulls more power than the batteries can handle but it is making us a lot less reliant on power from the grid. 

"I know lots of community centres who have struggled with rising bills. It's a big outlay at the start but especially the way prices were and could go back to, it's been worth it," she added.

As the John Peel Theatre moves on from energy worries, they look to expand with positive hopes for an upcoming funding bid.

In the meantime, performances and events continue.

"We're increasing our membership, we've got 148 members including children as young as five - who are taking part in our junior groups.

"We've got a real spread of membership and it's increased, it is a good place to be in," Ms Jenson said. 

Looking ahead, the theatre plans an exciting programme including many folk artists, and a pantomime next February.

From November 16-19, the theatre will be centre stage for The Scottish Play, a 'witty take' on Macbeth - as well as open mic nights. 

To view the full theatre programme of events, visit www.wigtontheatre.org/productions.html