The Regis Centre might be a centre for entertainment with a busy and diverse programme but, thanks to a wonderful volunteer team who work in the café, box office, shop and front-of-house, the venue is also a community hub in Bognor Regis.
“When I retired I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to fill my time. I didn’t know anything about theatre, so the last twelve years have been a real learning curve,” laughed Jenny Brown, whose previous career in child care saw her working at Jubilee pre-school for over twenty years.
Introduced to The Regis Centre by a neighbour, she started by volunteering one afternoon a week in the café.
“It just went from there. I’ve heard heart-rending stories over the years; some people who use the café every day live alone and they come here to socialise,” said Jenny, who together with her colleagues ensures that everyone receives a warm welcome and that the building runs like clockwork.
Well, most of the time. Jenny admits that her role does include being prepared for the unexpected.
“During the panto last year a fire alarm went off. We evacuated a full house in less than five minutes, and that was with two volunteer ushers who were in their eighties,” she said proudly.
“Even though it was a false alarm, we did everything exactly as it should be done; our training just kicked in.”
Insisting that a great team is inspired by a great leader, Jenny has nothing but praise for Hazel Latus, who is at the helm of The Regis Centre and who won the Observer’s 2016 ‘Contribution to the Arts’ award.
“She is a great diplomat and she guides us in such a gentle way. She really values people and we’d be lost without her,” Jenny told me.
As for volunteering at The Regis Centre, Jenny cannot recommend it highly enough.
“It’s given me a whole new outlook. If you can help, even if it’s just by listening, you get a lovely warm feeling inside.”
Also a committee member for Middleton Village Hall and a fundraiser for local Rainbows, Brownies and Guides, this glamorous mum of two grown-up daughters claims that keeping busy keeps her young.
“But we need support to help keep this gem of a building going,” she cautioned.
Watching her work makes it clear why Jenny is so suited to the pressures and bustle of her role. Calm, with a heart of gold and a natural multi-tasker, I suspect she could command an army, prepare a buffet for the troops and give the homesick ones a reassuring cuddle, all at the same time.
And she’d do it with a warm smile and not so much as a hair out of place.
Find out more about volunteering at The Regis Centre: www.alexandratheatre.co.uk/about-us/volunteering