Anyone who has been to The Stables at Wavendon will tell you what a great little venue it is, writes Anne Green.
The Stables is indeed little. The main auditorium has only 398 seats, compared with Milton Keynes Theatre, which has a maximum audience size of 1,400.
The number of permanent staff at The Stables is also tiny; it is only 15 people.
Despite this, in the last PRS for Music analysis, The Stables was rated as one of the UK’s top 10 music venues, alongside huge concert halls such as the Southbank Centre in London, and the Sage in Gateshead.
So just how does The Stables manage this? Matthew Sanders, Head of Marketing and Communication at The Stables thinks it has a lot to do with the volunteers who work at The Stables, known as the Stablemates.
There are 250 Stablemates who carry out many different roles.
They work front of house, as ushers, in the bar and on the catering side, as well as behind the scenes, carrying out technical roles in sound and lighting, and in the office, assisting with marketing and admin work.
Matthew explained: “From the very early days of The Stables, volunteers have played a vital role in keeping the venue operational. It’s also an important aspect of The Stables’ founding vision – we are all music for all people.
“Our volunteers come from all different backgrounds but share a common love for music and live performance in general, and The Stables in particular.”
In recognition of the huge contribution which the Stablemates make towards the success of The Stables, there is a Stablemate of the year award, and some Stablemates have been given honorary life memberships.
It is well known that The Stables music venue began its life as a disused stable block in Cleo Laine and John Dankworth’s garden.
When the couple moved into the Old Rectory in 1968 however, it was a long time since the stables had seen any horses, as the last use of the building had been as a nuts and bolts factory.
The conversion of the building into a music venue was very much a DIY project for the Dankworths and their friends, with Cleo painting walls and legendary guitarist John Williams doing carpentry.
The first public performance in The Stables was in February 1970, with tickets for the first concerts costing 50p.
There have been enormous changes at The Stables since then. 1979 saw the opening of an extension to the building, which added an extra 70 seats to the performance space.
In 2000 a completely new auditorium was built next to the old Stables, with the space where the audience used to sit being converted into the foyer and bar for the new theatre.
What was the foyer for the old Stables building has become Stage 2, a performance space which seats an audience of 80, and Café in 2, where you can enjoy a meal before going to a concert.
There are around 350 concerts at The Stables every year, however this is only part of what goes on there.
There is a whole programme of lifelong learning education events. The National Youth Music camps, founded by Avril Dankworth, take place every summer.
These are for children and young people aged 8 to 17 and are aimed at encouraging a love of music.
There are also music courses and workshops all year round at The Stables, teaching many different instruments, as well as the technical side of music such as sound engineering.
Every year The Stables run a Christmas show, which can provide an alternative or an addition to the traditional Christmas pantomime.
The Stables also regularly hosts live broadcasts for BBC radios 2 and 3.
Last but not least, The Stables provides a great venue for business meetings and conferences, with top notch clients such as Volkswagen, Audi UK and Yamaha.
Matthew said: “While most people will think of The Stables as being a music venue, we’re also busy with hosting conferences and business meetings for local and regional companies.
“I’d like to think we offer something a little bit different from other meeting facilities in the local area, and this stream of our business is one we’re keen to develop further.”
To find out what’s on at The Stables go to http://www.stables.org