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Star-filled night raises £100,000 for Finsbury Park theatre

Sir Ian McKellen, who hosted the fundraiser, with newspaper owner Evgeny Lebedev Sir Ian McKellen, who hosted the fundraiser, with newspaper owner Evgeny Lebedev

Wednesday, October 24, 2012
7:00 AM

A new theatre has raised the final chunk of cash needed for a floor dedicated to teaching youngsters – thanks to the likes of Hollywood actor Sir Ian McKellen and Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch.

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Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch with newspaper owner Evgeny LebedevSherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch with newspaper owner Evgeny Lebedev

A remarkable cast drawn from the worlds of TV, film and stage came together on Friday in a final fundraising push for the Park Theatre in Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, raising £100,000 by auction and raffle.

Guests included host Sir Ian McKellen and his X-Men co-star Sir Patrick Stewart, venerable playwrights Sir Tom Stoppard and Stephen Poliakoff, actresses Tamzin Outhwaite and Celia Imrie and novelist Jeffrey Archer, who acted as auctioneer.

Together they surpassed a target of £87,000 – the remaining sum needed towards a £400,000 education floor to become the new home of Islington Community Theatre and host workshops for hundreds of budding thespians each year.

Former Coronation Street actress Suranne Jones highlighted the positive impact such workshops can have on young people, saying: “Drama is a powerful thing – it brings things out in people that traditional education does not always do.

Melli Bond and Jez Bond, the husband and wife duo behind Park Theatre, with Sir Patrick Stewart at the fundraiserMelli Bond and Jez Bond, the husband and wife duo behind Park Theatre, with Sir Patrick Stewart at the fundraiser

“For me, I could have gone a different way if I hadn’t had access to theatre workshops. They allowed me to develop my talent and set me on the path to where I am now.”

Romola Garai, who starred alongside Keira Knightley and James McAvoy in the film Atonement, said: “It’s brilliant to have a theatre in a new area with a great commitment to education. It really is such an exciting thing to be a part of.”

The £2.5million theatre is due to open early next year and will house a bar and two auditoriums.

Nouska Hanly, of Park Theatre, said: “A lot of people thought we were mad to try to raise this extra £400,000 in a recession but we’ve gone ahead and done it against all the odds.

“For many of the people who attended the gala, drama has changed their lives and many have experienced first hand the difference access to the arts can make.

“We hope to reach people who would not necessarily have had that access. For them to have that in an actual theatre building will make it all the more special.”

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