Interview with Carolyn Rowley from The Barn Theatre
Could you tell us more about what’s going on at The Barn Theatre at the moment?
Barn Cakes began when Barbara O’Neil heard that St. George’s Hospital was appealing for homemade cakes for the nurses and other staff there. She asked us if she could use the theatre car park for people to drop the cakes off, and I thought we might as well throw ourselves into it wholeheartedly!
The idea is that people make cakes or something which the nurses can have for their breaks, and we’re now getting upwards of 150 cakes at a time! We wanted to make it more local, and now the bakes go to places including the Godstone Ambulance Service, the Oxted GP Surgery and The Westway Centre in Caterham.
The drop off time is Saturdays from 12:00pm to 13:00pm. On Easter Saturday, we’re also having an Easter basket competition, so you can donate things which are less perishable such as bath bombs or chocolate bars.
What first inspired you to take part in this scheme?
It was something that we could do to say thank you, more than anything else. If the theatre had been open, it would have been a lot more difficult, but because we’re closed, it seemed like a nice thing to do.
How has the response been, both from the public getting involved and those on the receiving end?
We’ve had a tremendous response online and in person! People are saying, ‘thank you for allowing us to thank the people who are helping us’. A few weeks ago, a volunteer took something up to The Westway Centre, but they were shut, so he took it into Caterham Dene Hospital, Caterham-On-The-Hill. The following Saturday a lady came too see us and said that she was there when the cakes were brought in and thought it was a lovely idea, so she decided to make a cake and bring it down herself. Subsequently it's continued to develop within the community.
Have you enjoyed taking in the donations and seeing everybody’s contributions?
Oh yes! I’ve enjoyed seeing people bring their contributions to us, and also the fact that you know where it’s going, and the impact it will have. We’ve also been very lucky in terms of the weather as it’s mainly been bright and dry. It wouldn’t have been quite so enjoyable if we’d got rained on!
Have there been any ‘stand-out’ bakes?
Some people do go to a lot of trouble, putting cupcakes in proper cupcake boxes which look absolutely lovely. However, you can’t single them out as some people have access to, and know about, these things, whereas other people don’t. While how they look makes a difference, it’s how they taste which is important!
What is your favourite thing to bake/eat?
For this, I‘ve tried to bake things which will be easy for the nurses to eat, but when we used to do the Oxted Carnival, I used to bake big, elaborate cakes! Saying that, I’m not fussed about eating cake as I get my pleasure out of people enjoying what I’ve made.
On a more serious note, the arts industry has been hit very hard by the pandemic, but what hopes do you have for future programmes and productions at The Barn Theatre?
It’s difficult because whilst we can open at 50% capacity on 17th May, none of our hirers are able to rehearse, so we’ve been moving the shows back, and I don’t think we’ll return to normal until the autumn. We’ve got comedy nights in June, September and November which people are booking tickets for, but perhaps the clientele are younger, so they’re more confident to go out. With the vaccine, I hope that older people will gain confidence because the whole industry’s raring to go!