Crown Wharf Theatre is flying high with the support of The Star of Stone Spitfire Group!
The Spitfire Group has become the latest Gold Founding Partner of the theatre project as we edge ever closer to opening the doors of the theatre.
In 1942, the people of Stone raised £5,000 to fund a Spitfire for the war effort. The plane was named ‘The Star of Stone’ because the fundraising meetings are thought to have been held in The Star Inn pub in the town. The plane was flown from RAF North Weald by the Norwegians of 331 Squadron. Sadly, on 19 June 1942, the Star of Stone pilot, Flt Lt Karl Jacobsen, died after being shot down over the Channel.
Set up in 2018, the Spitfire Group aims to keep the story of the Star of Stone alive – and to celebrate the huge community effort in the town that delivered the plane.
Numerous events and visits have been held over the last few years. And a painting of the Star of Stone Spitfire by Charles O’Neill has been presented to the family of Fl Lt Karl Jacobsen and to the mayor of his home town near Oslo, to the Norwegian Ambassador in the UK, and to many other organisations.
They have now been invited to the Royal Palace in Oslo to present a painting to the King of Norway, whose father and grandfather escaped (along with Karl Jacobsen) on HMS Devonshire in 1940 following the Nazi invasion of their country.
A painting was presented to the Crown Wharf Theatre on 1 February, and the Spitfire Group has become a gold founding partner, as well as sponsoring four seats at the theatre, all dedicated to the Star of Stone.
Geoff Berriman, group leader of the Star of Stone Spitfire Group, said: “We’re delighted to support Crown Wharf Theatre. When it opens its doors, it will be an incredible addition to the cultural life of the town. It’s simply mind-boggling what can be put on there and the impact it can have.
“In 1942, the people of Stone came together to fund The Star of Stone Spitfire. It was a wonderful community effort, and a similar community spirit exists around the Crown Wharf Theatre, as individuals, businesses and organisations all do their bit to make sure the theatre opens and is a huge success.”
Leo Capernaros, Crown Wharf Theatre trustee, said: “We’re so proud to be supported by The Star of Stone Spitfire Project. We’ve been so fortunate, right from the beginning, to have so many people stepping forward and backing the Crown Wharf Theatre. From individuals helping at our fundraising events, to businesses donating their time and expertise, to organisations like The Star of Stone Spitfire Project becoming founding partners, getting the theatre open is a real community effort.”
The shell of Crown Wharf Theatre was built as a gift to the town by Joule’s Brewery – the theatre’s lead sponsor – as part of their Crown Wharf development by the Trent and Mersey Canal. Back in 1942, Joule’s was also the lead sponsor of the Star of Stone Spitfire.
The Crown Wharf Theatre Charity took on the theatre in April last year on a peppercorn rent and, thanks to support from local businesses and a £50,000 grant from the Town Hall Charities, got to work first on the back-of-house areas, which are nearing completion.
A £75,000 grant from the Community and Environment Fund, in place to benefit communities being disrupted by HS2, was awarded to Crown Wharf Theatre at the end of last year, which means work in the auditorium can now get under way. The grant will be used to fund the lighting grid, sprung timber flooring, sound equipment and acoustic treatments.
Leo Capernaros added: “With the help of so many people, we’ve achieved so much and we’re taking exciting steps to getting the theatre open. There’s still a way to go, so we’d love to hear from individuals who want to volunteer their time, or businesses who want to help by donating time or expertise, or anyone who’s interested in sponsoring a seat or becoming a founding partner.”