Ballakermeen is celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the official opening of its Studio Theatre.

We take a look back at how the Studio Theatre came to be such an important and well-supported venue for performing arts on the Isle of Man.

From local youth drama productions to touring professional shows, screened west-end musicals to Ballakermeen’s school concerts, The Studio Theatre has seen it all and has offered students an ideal facility in which to develop their talents, both onstage and backstage.

Adrienne Burnett, Ballakermeen’s former head teacher, explained how The Studio Theatre came into being. She said: ‘During my first term as head teacher, I wrote a speculative letter to the Arts Council, hoping that they would be interested in developing what was a traditional school hall into a theatre space. The school’s facilities could be shared beyond the confines of the school day, with Ballakermeen’s location making it accessible for a large number of people.’

In the theatre’s early years, the space was mainly hired out by youth groups and touring professional shows and artists. It became so busy that the school itself struggled to be able to use the theatre and, like everyone else, had to hire the Studio Theatre for their own music concerts and their annual school shows.

In recent years the Studio Theatre has been much more school focused and is accessible by staff and students throughout the school day, being a well-used resource by day and a busy community venue and a bustling commercial theatre by night.

Known for its high calibre productions, Ballakermeen’s Performing Arts and Music Department have wowed audiences from the school’s first Studio Theatre show ‘Souled Out’, to memorable productions of ‘Candles’, ‘Little Shop of Horrors’, ‘Oliver!’ and ‘A Chorus Line’.

Designed to be versatile, the space is often used in different and creative ways, helping an audience to view the productions in an innovative manner. One memorable ‘in the round’ performance was ‘For The Fallen’ in April 2018. This production, commissioned by the Isle of Man Arts Council and created by a professional team of theatre makers, including Manx director John Young, was performed by an all community cast to commemorate the island’s involvement in World War One.

Over the years some community and external theatrical groups have become regulars, and one of which is the Manx Gateway Drama Club. Elan Karran, who runs the group said: ‘The Manx Gateway Drama Group, for people with learning difficulties, has presented an annual production at the Studio Theatre since 2008. It has been so good for our members to be able to perform in this lovely little theatre and enjoy all the benefits of acting in a “real” theatrical environment.’

A significant part of the Studio Theatre busy schedule are ‘live screenings’. These bring sold-out award-winning hits from the Royal Opera House, the National Theatre, West End, and other prestigious productions to the island, either as a pre-recorded performance or in the form of a live satellite stream. This has become a staple of the Studio Theatre’s offerings providing world class performances without the need to travel off-island to see them.

The theatre has very recently invested in a brand new, state of the art lighting desk, which is a similar product line, albeit smaller, to the desk used at the Gaiety Theatre, this will hopefully provide cohesion from a technical aspect across the islands venues and as a result, facilitates training for those interested in the technical side of theatre. The Studio Theatre hopes to become a breeding ground for the next generation of theatre technicians.

Since its origins, The Studio Theatre has been generously supported by the Isle of Man Arts Council & The Manx Lottery Trust. Without them, the theatre we know today would not be able to function.

Ballkermeen’s head teacher, Graeme Corrin, said: ‘This is a fantastic and versatile space to use. It is wonderful that so many members of the community can use this treasured venue.’

For more information regarding what’s on and how to hire the Studio Theatre, please go to our website at: