Distraught members of a youth drama group have said an emotional goodbye to their long-serving teacher whose post was axed because of council restructuring.
Fiona Kimberley-Pope has been an inspirational leader of Down 2 Earth (D2E), for youngsters aged eight and over, for 14 years.
She has run three sessions a week for different age groups at the Guildhall in Grantham, developing their social skills as well as their dramatic talents, and co-ordinating regular shows.
But a reorganisation of the way South Kesteven District Council runs the group led to Mrs Kimberley-Pope’s part-time role being lost - to the anger of parents as well as the children involved. A performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was her last show.
“I was stunned and absolutely mortified to be told by letter that I was losing my job after giving 14 years’ service,” said Mrs Kimberley-Pope.
“It was an emotional last show. The children mustered up some pennies and bought me a bouquet of flowers and a necklace. When they presented me with them we were all bawling our eyes out.”
Mrs Kimberley-Pope also runs a Saturday youth theatre group at St Mary’s Church in the town and she hopes some of the youngsters she was working with get involved in those sessions. She said her work with D2E was vital in giving young people improvisational and performing arts skills to help build their confidence for auditions and productions.
Mrs Kimberley-Pope added: “We had a girl working backstage for the last show, called Amy Arms-Rawden, who is 19 and she has been with me since she was eight.
“I recently heard from Jonathan Wooldridge, who is now working in panto at Drury Lane in London and he said our D2E sessions gave him the bug to get into theatre.
“It’s a shame we might lose all these connections in the future.”
Mrs Kimberley-Pope’s role will be absorbed into that of Anna Wilson, the education and youth arts officer for the Guildhall and Stamford Arts Centre. The district council said D2E would still run sessions for young children on Tuesdays and for seniors on Fridays.
Andrea McHugh, whose 14-year-old daughter attends D2E sessions, said parents were angry that Mrs Kimberley-Pope’s role had been removed and they were concerned their children would not get the same support and quality of teaching they have enjoyed in the past.
Paul Stokes, the council’s head of community assets, said: “There are no plans to cut funding from the D2E group and in 2014 it will continue to offer the chance for young people to develop their performance skills in acting, singing and dancing and the chance to perform in a professional theatre.
“There has been a staffing restructure to help run the group more efficiently and we’re looking forward to working with the groups.”
Annual productions planned for next year are The Addams Family Musical, May 1 to 3, and Disney’s The Little Mermaid, on June 27 and 28.
The senior group meets on Fridays and the younger group on Tuesdays. New members can find out more by calling the Guildhall Arts Centre on 01476 406158.