Younger generation is ‘future of our society’, says chairperson of Grantham Operatic Society
To mark the introduction of the council’s new culture strategy, we are launching a series of features called Behind the Scenes, highlighting the arts and cultural groups within Grantham.
We launch Behind the Scenes by talking to Elaine Bishop, chairperson of the Grantham Operatic Society.
First formed in 1957, the Grantham College Light Opera Society – as it was known then - was established, and it performed its first production HMS Pinafore in 1958.
In 1975, it changed its name to Grantham Light Opera Society, and only one year later it became the Grantham Operatic Society.
It then changed its name to Grantham Stage Musical Society in 1983, but reverted back to Grantham Operatic Society in 1990, and is now an award winning amateur theatre company that is open to everyone.
Elaine said: “It doesn’t matter if the last time someone sang was a primary school or they’ve never sung before, anybody is welcome to come and join us.”
Up until this year, the society performed one production a year, but since this year, they now perform two productions a year as the “demographic of the society has changed enormously”, added Elaine.
Since the pandemic, there has been an “seismic shift in membership” for the society.
Elaine said: “Before Covid, the society tended to be a slightly older demographic, with many loyal long-standing members.
“After Covid, quite a few who hadn’t sung found out they couldn’t anymore.
“It was really sad for us and it was really sad for them.
“It felt like we were having to start the society almost all over again because trying to bring it back after two years of not doing anything was hard.”
The pandemic was described as the “biggest threat to the UK’s cultural infrastructure, institutions and workforce in a generation”.
According to the Office of National Statistics, the industry saw a 44.5 per cent reduction in monthly gross domestic product (GDP) in the three months up to June 2020, compared with the three months before.
Although the pandemic presented its problems for the society, it saw a younger generation sign up.
The majority of its members are now in their 20s and 30s which is “brilliant” as they are the “future of our society”, said Elaine.
Elaine added: “We’re all about trying to future proof.
“It’s really nice to know we have people coming through that are going to be around to make their roots now.
“We have been here for 60 plus years, we would like to be here for another 60 years.”
To cater for the younger and older members, the society performs two productions in the year based on interests of the group.
The younger members are more interested in musicals, whereas the older members are more interested in operas such as Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.
The society’s first show back after the pandemic was ‘Crazy for You’, after it had to cancel its performance of Oklahoma at the last minute due to the Covid closure of theatres.
Elaine described the society as a “family”.
She said: “We come from a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives, but we all look out for each other and we all pull together, so it really does feel like a family.
“We’re very lucky that we have members who are very skilled in different things so it’s nice for them all to get involved.
“That’s part of what we’ve tried to do with sort of rejuvenating the society by starting to create this family culture.”
As someone who has been involved in many arts groups across the town, Elaine believes that the town has an “incredibly strong” arts and culture scene.
She said: “Grantham has always been heavily involved in the arts.
“The amount of singers, musicians and dancers we send off to top colleges is way above average for a town this size.
“It is a strong scene that has been running for hundreds of years, and it does take time and passion to keep these things going.”
With South Kesteven District Council’s hopes to “refresh” its strategy around arts and culture in the district, Elaine hopes that the scene “continues to grow” with this new strategy.
She said: “There are always new societies coming in which is fantastic.
“There is room for everybody and each society that is involved can grow and strengthen people.
“I think people are rightfully nervous after Covid and are cautious to come back, but I think part of it is to try and encourage people back to the theatre, encouraging them to come back to the joy of performance and remind them of the fun.
“I hope that through the strategy we will also be able to get even closer ties across the amateur societies of the town.
“It would be nice to see much more collaboration.”
For the future of the operatic society, Elaine hopes it will continue to think “more out of the box” and “share what we’re doing with a lot more people”, she said.
She added: “By doing two productions a year instead of one, we’re hoping it opens out a bit more.
“We’re looking forward to starting to take risks.
“There are other plans we will hopefully be looking at putting in place over the next few years, but the plan initially is to get ourselves firmly reestablished within Grantham’s culture scene.
“It’s very much about building ourselves and getting much more out there.”
If anyone would like to get involved with the Grantham Operatic Society, they can get in touch at https://www.facebook.com/GranthamOperaticSociety.
They can be contacted by email at email@example.com.