Portsmouth theatre needs £10,000 to refurbish front for plaque commemorating Australian politician

Artistic director Richard Stride at the Groundlings Theatre, Kent Street, Portsmouth, where a fundraising campaign is under way to renovate the facade     Picture: Chris Moorhouse
Artistic director Richard Stride at the Groundlings Theatre, Kent Street, Portsmouth, where a fundraising campaign is under way to renovate the facade Picture: Chris Moorhouse
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A THEATRE is calling on businesses and the public to support a refurbishment so it can honour one of the first government leaders of Australia.

The Groundlings Theatre, in Portsmouth, was stunned when the Australian High Commission said it wanted to put a commemorative plaque on the front of the building for Sir Henry Ayers, who went to school at the venue in the 1820s.

It would be great for the culture of the city to have this piece of history commemorated and Sir Henry remembered.

Richard Stride

Born in Portsea, he attended the Old Benny which was the first free school in the city before moving to Australia.

There, Mr Ayers went on to become the eighth leader of the country, serving a record five terms, and had the famous Ayers Rock landmark named after him.

Before the plaque is installed though, the Groundlings Theatre, on Kent Street, wants to spruce it up and needs support to raise the £10,000 needed.

Richard Stride, theatre director, said: ‘We were approached by the Australian High Commission about the plaque and we were really excited and keen to get involved in the project.

‘This piece of history is a huge deal for Australians and we get a lot of tourists who want to see where he went to school and learn about the building’s history.

‘Henry Ayers did a lot for Australia to make it prosper. He is one of the main founding fathers of Australia and that’s why this plaque is wanted.

‘But the front desperately needs renovating so we are looking to raise £10,000 to do the work.

‘The whole theatre needs work to bring it up-to-date but the front is the part we want to do first.

‘It is in need of some attention to get it up to the standards to house the plaque.’

The theatre is looking to repair its unique windows, get rid of the rust on the metal work and do maintenance work on the door frame.

To do this, they are calling for businesses to sponsor them or for people to make donations.

Richard added: ‘It would be great if businesses could support us or if individuals want to give money towards the project.

‘At the theatre, we’ll be doing fundraisers and raffles so if people want to donate their time instead to help us raise money that would also be appreciated.

‘Although there is not set timescale, we want to try and get the front refurbished as soon as possible and get this plaque installed.

‘It would be great for the culture of the city to have this piece of history commemorated and Sir Henry remembered.’