Marney believed in young people. This fund for future theatre-makers is the celebration she deserves

Marney

The start of a new year isn’t just a time to look ahead. It’s a time to remember those who inspired us, changed us, and pay that impact forward. Our late front of house manager Marney Meakin was one of those people.

She gave so many theatre-makers their first shot in the industry and sparked so many other people’s passion in the arts. That’s why we’ve set up a charitable fund in her memory which will help future participants pursue their dreams.

One of Marney’s first charges – whom she referred to as her “boys” – during her time at the National Theatre was producer Peter Wilson. He performed TS Eliot’s Four Quartets at a gathering here in her honour in 2021.

He recalls: “I was going to recite it to Marney in the autumn of 2019. But she was too ill to come. I’ve known her since I was in my early 20s, when I became an usher at the National Theatre. When she died, we were going to hold a service for her, but Covid got in the way. This fund is a great way to honour her.

“She was absolutely devoted to theatre and to audiences. Having worked at the National Theatre under Laurence Olivier and Peter Hall for a long time, she obviously had seen theatre at its very best.

“Her mantra as front of house manager was to look after the health, the comfort and safety of the audience. She understood they needed to be in peak condition in order that they experienced the maximum effect of the performance.

“She acted as the bridge between the stage and the auditorium. She was unfailingly polite and concerned and human. She was firm but never unfair. As a friend, she was absolutely stalwart.

“We kept in touch after I stopped being an usher and went into professional theatre. I came to the Theatre Royal in Norwich in 1992 and was looking for a front of house manager. Marney happened to be available and continued until 2004 when she came to The Garage.”

Marney was drawn to the stage from an early age, sparked by a star-studded, all-male, production of As You Like It at the Old Vic.

Marney

Peter says: “Theatre was in her blood. She believed in it. In its therapeutic and spiritual value. Marney believed in young people. She had all the time in the world for them [which is why] she loved being at The Garage. I suspect, perhaps, slightly more than she loved being at the Theatre Royal. But I never asked her that.

“Time dulls the pain, but I miss her. She was inspiration to me and a huge rock which I could lean on the early days of the Theatre Royal. Having somebody there who knows what they’re doing, who you have a pre-existing relationship with and who shares your passion.

“I’d never run a theatre before. But Marney could take the long view. She’d seen disasters and catastrophes come and go. She knew that however bad the day was, the sun would come up the following morning.

“I don’t mean this unkindly, but she was kind of like the reassuring hum of the Hoover in the next office. She was dependable, friendly, loving. Marney really cared about the job. She never flapped, never lost her temper, she never created problems she only ever solved them. She was she was an absolute rock. This fund is the proper celebration she deserves.”

You can find out more about the fund and how to donate via our support page.

In case you missed it, our spring term of classes begin on Monday 9 January. You can find out more about those here and our educational courses here.

Our friendly front of house team is happy to answer any questions. Give them a call on 01603 283382 or email info@thegarage.org.uk.

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